The EESC Workers' Group discusses Sustainability, its social dimension and labour mobility in Europe

9 October 2019 – Helsinki – Extraordinary meeting of the Workers' Group

"Finland has an excellent opportunity to drive the future of Europe towards a path that is socially, economically and ecologically sustainable. That is why, we, at the Workers' group, are happy to see that the Finnish Presidency wants to deepen in particular the discussion launched around the European Pillar of Social Rights, as it is clear that now the main concern is its effective implementation!" These were the words of Workers' Group President Oliver Röpke opening the extraordinary meeting that took place on 9 Οctober in Finland, Helsinki, on the occasion of the Finnish Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Discussions focused on how to forge a sustainable future for Europe. Particular emphasis was given on the current challenges summed up by Timo Harakka, Finnish Minister of Employment: carbon neutral economy, future-oriented education, social justice, EU leading role in innovations, new jobs and higher employment rates and competitive economy. Mr Harakka stressed that sustainable growth should focus on the people: it was all about ensuring social inclusion by providing equal opportunities and enhancing participation in the labour market. And social dialogue and collective bargaining should play a vital role here.

The Finnish Presidency is underlining the social dimension of sustainable Europe through the aspect of fair European labour mobility, a key ingredient of the European social model. For the EESC Workers' Group, a sustainable Single Market must prevent social dumping and guarantee equal pay for equal work at the same place, in the framework of fair mobility. Contributions to this discussion came from Finnish and European trade union leaders, including Jarkko Eloranta, President of the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK), Antti Palola, President of the Finnish Confederation of Professionals (STTK), and Per Hilmersson, ETUC Deputy General Secretary. The revision of the posting of workers directive is a first step, but we must ensure its implementation to prevent social dumping.  The newly established European Labour Authority should play a key role in this regard. Some fundamental objectives were reminded: the need to give the European semester a social dimension, the importance of providing proper funding for implementing the social pillar, enhancing collective bargaining coverage, the inclusion of a social progress protocol in any Treaty change to re-establish a balance between the economic freedoms and the internal market, and fundamental social rights.

The afternoon session focused on skills mobility in the European labour market with contributions from Sture Fjäder, President of the Confederation of Unions for Professional and Managerial Staff in Finland (AKAVA), and various academics and researchers. Mr Fjäder focused on the growing numbers of moving and qualified workers, the changes it implies, and the need to rethink the labour market structure in the EU. The debate also centred on the need for mutual academic and professional recognition to build trust between countries and to prepare education for the future labour market.