Following the ministers’ approval of a General Approach on the Labour Authority within the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) last week (6th December 2018), this week (11th November 2018), the EU Parliament’s plenary also gave the green light for the trilogue: the negotiation mandate of Parliament was approved by a large majority, 459 MEPs voted in favour, 160 against. A strong signal for a European Labour Authority!
How powerful and assertive the Labour Authority will be in reality, will now be shown by the trilogue negotiations, which started on 11th December 2018. As to contents, the positions of EU Parliament and Council are still apart in some points. In any case, what is positive is the fact that both institutions stick to this – from a worker’s perspective extremely important - undertaking and until now have expedited negotiations. In doing so, there is still chance that the Labour Authority may be adopted even before the EU elections in May 2019 and - as proposed by the Commission - may be able to become operational before the end of 2019.
Employment Council: Agency instead of Authority, and more “voluntary action”
Unfortunately, with regard to contents, some points of the Commission proposal were watered down due to the General Approach adopted by the Employment Council: hence, the Member States want to limit the role of the Labour Authority to “Supporting the Member States” and therefore by a majority have come out in favour of changing the title to European “Labour Agency”. However, restricting the task to just supporting Member States would mean the Labour Authority’s lack of assertion.
As already provided for by the Commission proposal, it shall be possible to carry out joint controls in several Member States within the scope of the Labour Authority in future. Here, the Council compromise amends that participating in the controls should only be on a voluntary basis. Ultimately, participating in mediation procedures shall also be on a voluntary basis: here, a mediator, possibly with the support of experts, shall try to reach consensus between Member States. In particular cross-border enforcement is often hampered by problems in practice - there is reason to worry that a voluntary approach will not be able to solve these in future.
EU Parliament: Enhanced role of social partners
In contrast to the Council, the European Parliament wants to keep the name European “Labour Authority”. The voting result of the EU Parliament also brings some substantial improvements compared to the Commission proposal: the Labour Authority shall not only be able to coordinate, but also to initiate joint controls. The role and involvement of the social partners will also be enhanced: social partners in the Member States will be granted the right to bring known cases of alleged breaches of law to the attention of the Authority. Apart from that, six social partners at union level shall now also be represented on the Management Board of the Labour Authority. In respect of the Stakeholder Group, the number of social partners has been increased from six to ten; these shall also include social partners from particularly affected sectors.
AK: The speedy commencement of the trilogue negotiations can begin
The Chamber of Labour is now supporting a rapid conclusion of the negotiations on the Labour Authority to ensure that the Authority can become operational as soon as possible. In the negotiations, those improvements, which were proposed by the European Parliament, shall play a special role and elements of “voluntariness” shall be reconsidered. The question of where the Authority shall be located is also still open: the Chamber of Labour supports the idea of setting up the Labour Authority in Austria.