The planned EU Labour Authority has already cleared the first hurdle: last week the European Parliament’s Committee on Employment and Social Affairs gave its approval for a joint European Labour Authority. Now it is up to the Ministers of the Member States to reach agreement to make its finalisation before the end of this legislative period possible.
Voting on 20 November 2018 in the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, MEPs of all parties agreed that a European Labour Authority (ELA) will improve the living and working conditions of European men and women. However, there was disagreement concerning the issue which form it should take, which was reflected in the close election result. Whilst some Conservative MEPs frequently voiced the demand to limit the area of responsibility, Social Democrat, Left and Green MEPs demanded more enforcement powers for the European Labour Authority.
From a workers’ point of view, the proposal, which the Committee in the end agreed upon, includes improvements in some areas compared to the Commission proposal. Social partners are expressly empowered to take cases of alleged breaches of law, which they are aware of, to the Authority. According to the proposal by the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL), they should also be more integrated into administrative and governance structures. The ELA shall also be authorised to formulate political recommendations to the European Commission concerning effective law enforcement, in particular in respect of fighting undeclared work, exploitation and tax avoidance. Apart from that, it may call upon the European Commission to initiate infringement proceedings.
As part of the vote, the mandate for entering into trilogue negotiations was also awarded, which has to be confirmed by the plenary in December. The Ministers of the Member States now have a big responsibility; they meet on 6/7 December in the Council for Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs and also have to reach agreement to ensure that the trilogue negotiations can start without delay: a political agreement in form of a so-called General Approach seems to be possible. In the run-up to the Council for Employment both MEPs and the Commission regard it as a duty of the Austrian Presidency to negotiate the dossier in a committed manner and to give priority to this important project with the scope of the European Pillar of Social Rights at last.
Other important social dossiers were voted on in the Committee meeting of the EMPL on 20 November 2018: apart from the Labour Authority, the Committee also voted on the Regulation on the coordination of social security systems (so-called Regulation 883). Among other, the indexation of family allowances by the Austrian Federal Government was also on the agenda. The Chamber of Labour is opposed to cutting family allowances and also made reference to the violation of European law by Austrian law. Within the scope of the vote on Regulation 883, amendments were also tabled in this course; however, they were rejected in the Committee with a large majority (75 % against). The Conservative camp is split over this issue; in particular MEPs from Central and East Europe are against the indexing options for social benefits, whilst MEPs from Austria and Germany voted in favour of indexation.
Finally, the EU Parliament voted on the protection of workers against carcinogens: here, the EMPL adopted the report on the 3rd phase of the Amendment of the Carcinogens Directive with a large majority. Apart from two abstentions, all MPs voted in favour of the report. If here too it is possible to achieve a General approach at the forthcoming Employment Council on 6/7 December, trilogue negotiations for this dossier, which from the AK’s point of view is important, could also begin.