Workers' view on the 2021 State of the Union speech

By the EESC Workers Group

The 2021 State of the Union address has some shortcomings in terms of its ambition and clarity, despite naming virtually all the key challenges facing Europe.

Structural reforms are certainly important but the recovery and reconstruction plan, put forward by the Workers Group position paper and the EESC contribution to the 2022 Commission Work Programme, should focus on fighting inequality and poverty and regaining jobs lost, with particular attention to vulnerable groups and rising in-work poverty.

The address failed to touch on developing the implementation of the Social Pillar Action Plan and bolstering protection of platform workers. The meagre reference to social justice and fairness is reflected in the letter of intent, where the proposals barely go beyond implementing the OECD agreements on taxation.

These agreements are welcome, but the European Union should be a leading force in this matter. It goes without saying that some Member States will try to resist curbing tax avoidance, but without political courage from the executive, nothing will be achieved.

The news about banning forced labour is laudable. This should be linked to due diligence and guaranteeing human rights around the globe, and additional proposals should be presented to tackle precarious work and unpaid traineeships. Climate change measures are urgent but so are the social measures that must accompany them: unless we want EU-wide gilets jaunes, energy poverty must be tackled decisively and funds and regulatory action must be effective and sufficient.

The road ahead is long, and we cannot rest while millions of Europeans struggle to turn the heating on, when collective bargaining systems are weakened, while some large companies avoid taxes and fossil fuels are still subsidised. We cannot rest when more than half of the world remains unvaccinated. We must use solidarity as a guiding principle to ensure a fairer future for everyone. (pr)