The proposal for a European Pillar of Social Rights published by the European Commission elicited a critical first reaction from the secretaries general of UEAPME, EUROCHAMBRES and CEEP. Véronique Willems, Arnaldo Abruzzini and Valeria Ronzitti participated in the Employers' Group meeting to discuss their organisations' current priorities.
"The proposals we have seen so far (work-life balance) will greatly affect SMEs and add a cost burden," complained Véronique Willems, Secretary General of UEAPME. In UEAPME's view, the main focus should be on better implementation and enforcement of existing rules instead of creating additional rights. She underlined that the impact on SMEs of the proposals on the flexibility of working time was still to be determined. Skills development should be a key element for the Commission.
"We are very worried about the direction European policy is taking," said Arnaldo Abruzzini, Secretary General of EUROCHAMBRES, referring to the European Pillar of Social Rights. In his view, there was a tendency in the European Union to exploit the social aspect to the maximum, as politicians hoped that this would stop populism. He underlined that no social policy could be sustainable without growth and job creation. Disaffection with Europe was not caused by insufficient social protection but by a lack of growth and jobs. Jobs would not be created by social policy but by entrepreneurs, who needed a proper environment for development. Mr Abruzzini also emphasised the importance of sound work-based learning processes and vocational systems to help address skills mismatches.
For Valeria Ronzitti, Secretary General of CEEP, the Commission's proposals now had to be carefully analysed to arrive at a thorough and realistic assessment. The reflection paper on the social dimension was a crucial element of the broader reflection on the future of Europe. CEEP members were concerned that the link with the upcoming paper on the Economic and Monetary Union was not strong enough. Social progress was impossible without economic progress and vice versa. According to Ms Ronzitti, the employers would have an excellent opportunity to underline the importance of growth and jobs in the whole concept of the social pillar during the upcoming Social Summit in Gothenburg. "Without a sound level playing field in terms of the economy, we will not be able to make progress towards a social Europe," she concluded.