10-11 September 2014: 501st plenary session

This page is also available in

The plenary session on 10 September 2014 included a debate on undeclared work, with a statement by Ms Teresa Bellanova, Italian State Secretary for Labour and Social Policy.

Statements made by Workers Group members

Gabriele Bischoff

Gabriele Bischoff stressed that the opinion in question dealt with a very complex and controversial issue for which solutions had to be found in order to save society significant social costs.

As this was not solely a domestic problem (it also had a crossborder aspect), a smart European solution to the issue of bogus self-employment was also necessary.

As no clear solutions had yet been devised, an exchange of experience should be conducted, involving the social partners and civil society as a whole.

Ms Bischoff stressed that in principle the trade unions supported any policy aimed at improving mobility, but the people who made use of it had to retain adequate social-security cover, even when their status changed.

Tackling this type of problem required not only an exchange of good practice but also solutions tailored to each country. Ms Bischoff concluded by expressing the hope that the EESC would make concrete proposals, for example for strengthening the control mechanisms laid down in the Directive on posted workers, to show that the EESC did not just pinpoint problems but also helped find solutions.

Béatrice Ouin

Béatrice Ouin regretted that the debate focused on bogus self-employment when there was plenty to say about undeclared work, which was increasing in Europe, especially in the field of domestic work.

The ageing population and increase in full-time working by women meant that demand for help in private homes was rising steadily: these services were often provided by migrant women, and in many cases their work went undeclared. As the sector was unstructured, the workers were hired informally by word of mouth, and social-insurance contributions were not paid. In France, where steps had been taken to regularise undeclared work, official statistics showed that there were now 2 million people working in private homes. The figure was undoubtedly even higher at EU level.

Ms Ouin concluded by emphasising the need to structure and support the domestic-work sector. The exchange of good practice proposed in this context could help to promote solutions such as granting tax relief to families seeking home helps, or setting up businesses or associations to organise the provision of such services and social-security cover. In the absence of such measures, undeclared workers would be a heavy burden on the public purse when they left the labour market.

The plenary session on 10 September 2014 also included a debate on migration, with a statement by Mr Domenico Manzione, Italian State Secretary for Immigration

Statements made by Workers Group members

George Dassis

George Dassis, president of the Workers Group, echoed the views of the State Secretary. He noted the various aspects of immigration: its economic side, which for a long time had been the only aspect considered; its demographic side; and lastly its humanitarian side, which was now the most prominent. The EU could not remain indifferent to the humanitarian tragedy being played out at present. Paradoxically, the Dublin agreements did not mean a common European response, but rather the reverse. They had in fact transferred a huge problem to those countries which had external borders, with no consideration for their size or their reception capacity.

However, calls for a European immigration policy were not new. They dated back at least to the Community of Nine. The trade union movement had always supported the establishment of such a policy, not only for economic and demographic reasons, but above all for reasons of solidarity and humanity. In conclusion, he hoped that the Italian government would work to that end. It could count on the EESC's support in this.

Luis Miguel Pariza Castaños

 Luis Miguel Pariza Castaños congratulated the Italian government on the rescue operations it had conducted under the Mare Nostrum scheme, although he thought it shameful that developed, democratic countries allowed thousands to die at sea; faced with this humanitarian disaster, the rescue patrols defended refugees' dignity and human rights.

The opinion, which the EESC had drawn up at the Italian government's request, was one of a series of opinions on the common asylum and immigration policy, showing that the Committee was at the forefront of policy debates in this field.

Mr Pariza Castaños then highlighted some of the key points made in the various opinions. Economic migration could help solve the major demographic challenge facing Europe; the EU thus needed a more open admission policy. Like the European Commission, the EESC recommended managing asylum policy jointly with all other migration-related policies. Faced with the greatest migration movement since the end of the second world war, Europe and the international community had to shoulder their responsibilities. They needed to adopt a more open asylum policy based on solidarity.

Finally, the rationale of the Schengen area, whereby external borders were common borders, meant that it was up to the EU as a whole to take responsibility for managing those borders. In the medium term, Frontex should therefore become a European border patrol service.

The plenary session on 11 September 2014 also included a debate on strategic issues in the Mediterranean region, with a statement by Ms Helena Dalli, Maltese minister for social dialogue, consumer affairs and civil liberties.

Statements made by Workers Group members

Anna Maria Darmanin

Anna Maria Darmanin, the president of the Single Market Observatory, stressed the links between Mediterranean policy and immigration questions. It was time for the EU to show more solidarity in this field and turn words into deeds, before the European public became even more disaffected with the EU and its institutions. This also held true for insecure work and youth unemployment, since these two issues were closely connected, as the situation in Malta and other countries showed.

EU citizens expected more of Europe. Making laws was not enough: young people had to be found decent jobs.

Ms Darmanin concluded by stressing that the Council, in particular, had to become more pro-active in order to achieve tangible results in these fields.

 

Daniela Rondinelli thanked the minister for having addressed many of the key concerns of the civil society organisations represented at the EESC. Noting that the Maltese government's position was close to that of the Committee, she asked Malta to support the EESC opinion on the common immigration policy, European asylum system and European border policy adopted the previous day.

She also drew the Maltese government's attention to another relevant opinion drafted by the president of the Workers Group and adopted unanimously, which highlighted the importance of social dialogue as a cornerstone of a solid EMU. Faced with an excessive austerity policy which put the weakest members of society under extreme pressure, the Committee advocated social dialogue not only as a way out of the crisis but also as a tool for promoting employment. Back in 1985, Jacques Delors said that the single market - i.e. the free movement of persons, goods and capital - could not rest solely on an economic pillar and also needed a social pillar. Social dialogue thus had to be encouraged, in particular to strengthen collective bargaining not only at national but also at EU level, because without closer alignment of national labour markets it would not be possible to overcome the crisis.

Ms Rondinelli concluded by expressing the hope that the Maltese government would support the Committee’s opinions with a view to improving the living and working conditions of the EU's citizens.