“High employment rates and signs of improvement for the youth”, this is how the European Commission advertises the current Quarterly Report on Employment and Social Developments in the EU. The Commission far too often paints a too rosy picture of the economic and social development in Europe. However, from the AK’s point of view, additional efforts have to be made at European level to ensure that the increased growth and employment rates also improve people’s working and living conditions. 

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Cancer is by far the most common cause for work-related deaths: according to the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA), over half (52%) of all work-related deaths in the EU are caused by work-related cancer. However, this phenomenon is given far too little attention in the public debate. In particular, the issue of women who have been affected by work-related cancers has so far received too little attention.

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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.

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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.

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On 17 November 2017, the European Pillar of Social Rights was proclaimed at the Social Summit in Gothenburg. During the coming days, the European Parliament will have to decide on several legal acts, which could significantly contribute to a more social Europe.

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Austria has been the holder of the Presidency since July 2018; in fact, more than half of her term has passed. During an event organised by the Brussels Offices of the Austrian Federal Chamber of Labour (AK EUROPA) and the Austrian Trade Union Federation (ÖGB Europabüro), as well as the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) on 22 October, the trade unionists called on the Aus-trian Presidency to prioritise social policy issues.

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On Thursday, 18 October 2018, the European Parliament’s Committee on Employment and Social Affairs voted on the proposal for a Directive on predictable and transparent working conditions. For workers and the trade union movement, the result of the vote represents at least a partial victory. In particular workers in precarious employment would benefit from the Directive, which would ensure some fundamental information and minimum rights.

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Until two years ago, the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive had been determining binding limits only for three carcinogenic substances. In so far three Tranches, the European Commission has now proposed amendments for the Directive: following the completion of the 1st Tranche, which determined 13 limits for carcinogenic substances, there has now also been a breakthrough concerning the 2nd Tranche: in the trilogue negotiations on 11 October 2018, Council and EU Parliament found agreement concerning the diesel engine emissions, which has been a controversial issue for a long time.

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The Federal Chamber of Labour (BAK) in principal welcomes the approach laid out in the proposal for the improvement of the European Social Fund+ in the Multiannual Financial Framework. However, the concrete plans of the European Commission don’t seem to reflect this approach in a satisfactory manner. The original ESF will be merged with four other Funds, which will increase its budget in absolute numbers to 101 bn. Euro. But with the increase in tasks for the ESF+ this amounts to a de facto decrease in ESF-budget.

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Silvia Hofbauer

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The Austrian EU-Presidency started in the second half of 2018. It was at that time, that the Austrian Trade Union Federation (ÖGB) published a set of very concrete demands addressed to the Presidency. Sadly, social issues were only marginalized in the Presidency`s work programme, while emphasis was put on strengthening the subsidiarity principle or the protection of the external borders. Trade unions are therefore worried about the EU`s tendency to withdraw from its social agenda and the much needed political change.

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