Labour rights and democracy under attack

By the EESC Workers' Group

As the COVID-19 crisis continues to escalate across Europe, the Workers' Group of the European Economic and Social Committee is extremely concerned to hear about attacks on collective bargaining and workers' rights in certain Member States.

We are particularly alarmed by the situation in Poland, where the government is proposing emergency legislation to deal with COVID-19 that will infringe on the independence of the Social Dialogue Council and the autonomy of the social partners.

The Workers' Group is also aware that in Italy, where the government and the social partners have reached an agreement that unemployment benefits for workers who cannot work during the COVID-19 crisis will be decided by collective bargaining, far-right politicians have called for the suspension of such collective bargaining.

In Hungary, changes endangering workers' rights have been made to labour law without the prior consultation of social partners. Furthermore, taking the opportunity of the pandemic, Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been granted emergency powers that go well beyond the emergency statutes passed in the other EU countries and jeopardise the rule of law and fundamental rights: the emergency powers have no time limit, and will allow him to prosecute anyone who spreads supposed false information, including journalists.

Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic is a major test of our times. While recognising that governments may need to adopt emergency measures to deal with the impacts of the pandemic, the Workers' Group stresses the need for all governments to respect human and fundamental rights, including workers' and trade union rights. Now is the time for solidarity and working together. This is the only way that we will defeat this pandemic. (secWGroup)