Social dialogue as a tool to promote health and safety at work - Related Opinions
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The EESC asserts that businesses and workers must have proper channels for participating in efforts to support environmental protection and combat climate change. While respecting the role of national industrial relations systems and the autonomy of the social partners, the EESC considers that issues related to the green transition could be a stronger focus of collective bargaining at the appropriate levels. It highlights collective bargaining as a key tool that can help companies and workers face the challenges of the climate crisis, including the derived costs for companies.
The EESC welcomes the Commission Communication and the Commission proposal for a Recommendation on strengthening social dialogue in the European Union. The Committee is fully aligned with the view that social dialogue can be a beneficial tool to drive economic and social resilience, competitiveness, and sustainable and inclusive growth. Establishing a common effective framework, to be implemented at national level for the involvement of social partners, might help ensure that effective and quality consultations with national social partners take place.
This Opinion welcomes the Commission's ambition to reduce the incidence of cancer, and its specific efforts to minimise exposure to asbestos at work. It recommends that the technical limit value for asbestos exposure under the Directive on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to asbestos at work should ultimately be set at a lower level than the Commission is currently proposing. This Opinion also suggests that roadmap of complementary measures over and above the Commission's proposals should be drawn up in order to achieve that objective. It calls on the EU and its Member States to actively promote an international ban on the use of asbestos and protection for workers dealing with existing asbestos during activities such as renovation, demolition and waste management.
This opinion comments on the new EU strategic framework on health and safety at work for the period 2021-2027. The framework sets out the key actions needed to improve workers' health and safety over the coming years and focuses on three objectives: managing change brought by green, digital and demographic transitions as well as changes to the traditional work environment, improving prevention of accidents and illnesses, and increasing preparedness for any potential future crises. The EESC broadly agrees with the vision set out in the strategic framework but proposes also additional measures and initiatives to be integrated in the strategy.
The opinion, presenting EESC's position on the four proposals of the Health package published by the European Commission in November 2020, supports and welcomes these initiatives but draws the attention on some elements.
- The EU and Member States should ensure that everyone has equal access to quality, well staffed, well equipped health and social services. This is particularly important in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic which has deepened existing inequalities.
- Special attention in future EU policies should be given to healthcare workers and the need to improve working conditions, including pay, recruitment and retention, as well as their health and safety.
- The new EU health package should be combined with the roll-out of the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR), particularly its principles 12, 16, 17 and 18 and the Action Plan on the EPSR. It should also be part of achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3.
The pandemic expedited the shift to teleworking, and it became essential in tackling the health crisis. Lessons learned from the pandemic could lead to regulations in the EU and in the Member States be amended and new regulations created so as to promote the positive aspects of telework and protect the fundamental rights of workers. The Member States, with the involvement of the social partners, need to ensure that there is an appropriate national framework for teleworking, setting out the rules of play for companies and workers interested in adopting this form of work.
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