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European social partners sign an agreement to to fight against harassment and violence at work

Today (26/4/2007), in the presence of Commissioner Špidla, the secretaries general of ETUC, BUSINESSEUROPE, UEAPME and CEEP officially signed an autonomous framework agreement to fight against harassment and violence at work. Negotiated during ten months, the text commits the members of the signatory parties to combat all unacceptable behaviour that can lead to harassment and violence at the workplace.

The outcome of the Viking Case - currently before the European Court of Justice (ECJ) - will have a landmark impact on workers' rights and trade unions' ability to negotiate effectively for the protection of workers and to defend social rights

The case addresses whether a company can deprive workers of the basic right to collective action, by formally relocating its assets in a country where salaries and benefits are lower.

The European Commission must submit its views on the case to the ECJ before the end of April. The ETUC has written to Commission President José Manuel Barroso calling for a carefully “balanced approach” that reflects its obligation to promote social dialogue and the basic social rights laid down in the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

In 2003, the Finnish Viking shipping line decided that it could gain a competitive advantage by re-flagging its passenger and cargo ferry Rosella, operating between Helsinki and Tallinn in the Baltic Sea, as an Estonian vessel, and replacing the crew with lower-paid seafarers. Dissatisfied with how the situation was resolved in Finland, Viking subsequently went to court in England seeking an injunction to prevent the Finnish Seamen's Union (FSU) taking industrial action at some time in the future in order to protect its memberΆs jobs. Viking also sought to prevent the International Transport WorkersΆ Federation (ITF) in the future from calling on its affiliate members to show solidarity to the FSU. Viking was able to bring its action in the English court only because the ITF has its Secretariat in London.

“This case represents a mirror image of the Laval (or Vaxholm) case in Sweden, which attracted a lot of public attention and concern,” said ETUC General Secretary John Monks. “The potential legal, political and social repercussions of these cases go far beyond the Finnish and Swedish social models and will affect labour relations throughout Europe.”

The stated aim of the employers in these cases is to undermine successful social models and shift the balance of power between the social partners in countries where trade unions have a recognised role in defending workers' interests. The right to collective action lies at the heart of the Nordic social model, a model that is shared by some of the most competitive economies in the world. A finding in favour of the employers would have a damaging impact in parallel circumstances in Germany, France and many other EU Member States.

The ETUC is not opposed to the development of the internal market, or the free movement of goods, capital, services and workers. Nor does it promote protectionism. On the contrary, it seeks a level playing field between Member States, based on fair treatment and upward harmonisation of workers' rights and conditions.

The Commission's submission to the ECJ and the outcome of this case, is of great political importance to the future direction of the EU and to trade union and public support for Europe. As to the right to collective action, it is a legitimate expectation that also the Commission would respect the international commitments of all the Member States, notably to the International Labour Organisation (ILO)Ά s core Conventions. They bind also the Member States of the EU.

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) welcomes the publication of the CommissionΆs Communication on social services of general interest. This first step is necessary, but it is not enough.

The publication certainly indicates progress towards recognition of such services, and of the need to clarify the conditions for applying certain Community rules. The ETUC is happy to note the intention of setting the procedure for monitoring and dialogue within the framework of the open method of coordination, and stresses the need to consult the European social partners.

Yet while the ETUC considers that this first step is necessary, it is still inadequate. The Commission must go further with its proposals in this regard, in order to establish greater legal certainty, through a framework directive on services of general interest (SGI), which should also make it possible to take account of the specific character of social services.

It is important to remember that these services are designed for people, and they arise from systems of solidarity aimed at fulfilling a mission of general interest in order to contribute to the objectives of social and territorial cohesion and to guarantee the effective implementation of fundamental rights. So they cannot be subject merely to market forces, based on the law of commercial competition alone.

At the same time, the ETUC holds the view that it is necessary to expand the definition of these services, excluded from the scope of the directive on services in the internal market. The Commission has adopted an approach that is too restrictive. Social services are not provided only to the poor or the excluded, they often have to meet the needs and expectations of all individuals. The ETUC knows from experience that focusing on policies for the poor leads too often to the implementation of poor policies.

The ETUC will continue to work actively, together with other relevant partners, to win measures for social Europe that are worthy of the name.

European social partners present their work programme 2006-2008

On the occasion of the Tripartite Social Summit on 23 March, ETUC, UNICE/UEAPME and CEEP presented the new EU social dialogue work programme for 2006-2008. The aim of this work programme is to contribute to growth, jobs and the modernisation of the EU social model. The work programme 2006-2008 is the second multi-annual work programme of the EU social dialogue.

 Speaking at the press conference, UNICE President Ernest-Antoine Seillière also presented UNICEΆs latest report on restructuring and social partnersΆ activities on managing change. The report demonstrates the commitment of UNICE and its member federations to promote the results of the European social dialogue across the European Union.

In addition, CEEP, UNICE/UEAPME and ETUC presented the fourth and final report on the follow-up to their framework of actions on lifelong learning.

For further information visit UNICE

ETUC Executive Committee reaffirms its vigilance regarding the evolution of the Services Directive

The Executive Committee of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), which met on 14 and 15 March, assessed the positive impact of the Euro-demonstration on the draft Services Directive on 14 February. The European trade unions believe that the compromise agreed by the European Parliament must be the foundation for future decisions on the issue
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