Select Committee on European Union Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by the Trades Union Congress (TUC)

  1.  The TUC represents 69 affiliated unions with over 6.5 million members. It is a leading member of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), which has in affiliation 74 national trade union centres in 34 countries, including all EU and accession countries, with a total membership of about 60 million.

  2.  Today, Europe is entering a new phase in its history. In the near future it will be unified through the enlargement process. Working people are expecting the need for more and better jobs to be met. Citizens at large claim the full recognition of their rights. Globalisation needs to be governed in the interest of all. The time has come for the European Union to deliver more effectively on the side of economic and social progress as well as to live up to its responsibility to promote peace with justice in the world.

  3.  The TUC and the ETUC have pressed consistently for improved openness and democratic accountability in the European institutional system. We do not subscribe, however, to the notion of "Europe bad, national good". In the TUC's experience, access to and involvement in public policy making is more readily available at the European level than in Britain.

  4.  The TUC and the ETUC have supported the process of European integration enshrined in successive Treaty amendments, and have expressed regret that the social and employment, as well as political dimensions have not kept pace with economic, monetary and market integration. Progress in all these key areas should go hand in hand.

  5.  The task of the European Convention is to respond to the demands of European citizens through a Constitutional Treaty, based on democratic principles as well as upholding the values of the European Social Model, providing at the same time the ways and means for them to become a reality in daily life.

  6.  This can only be achieved if the Constitutional Treaty integrates the Charter of Fundamental Rights with full binding effects and includes sustainable development within a social market economy; full employment; equality of women and men; a high level of social and environmental protection; economic, social and territorial cohesion and universal access to services of general interest/public services among the objectives of the European Union. The Treaty will also need to entrust to the Union the necessary competences and powers for these objectives to effectively pursued.

  7.  The reform of the EU institutions is a direct consequence not only of enlargement but also the need for the Union to speak with one voice in the international arena and to govern more productively its economic and employment policies. Social Europe will never be fully achieved without a more democratic Union. In this respect the TUC and the ETUC believe that the "Community method" must be preserved as the main instrument of action, with qualified majority voting and co-decision for the European Parliament.

  8.  The Constitutional Treaty must also recognise the specific role of the social partners with regard to their involvement in economic and social governance as well as their role in the social dialogue as co-regulators, through legally binding and voluntary framework agreements under the Social Chapter.


  10.  The Group published its report on 4 February, just a few days after the entry into force of the Treaty of Nice and two days before the Praesidium published its Draft Articles 1 to 16 of the Constitutional Treaty on 6 February. Now there are over 1,000 amendments to the draft Treaty. The TUC sees the report of the Working Group as a positive contribution to the preparation of a new Treaty and would like to see its recommendations—backed by consensus in the Group—taken up in a more clearly defined way in the draft Treaty.

  11.  The TUC supports the additional values suggested by the Working Group for inclusion in Article 2 of the draft Treaty: social justice, solidarity and equality, in particular between men and women.

  12.  The TUC recognises that the draft Treaty takes up some of the Working Group's recommendations for Article 3, Objectives, but would support the inclusion of those not taken up such as services of general interest/public services or those not carried over completely, such as "a high degree of social protection". It is particularly pleased that "full employment" is included, compared with the existing Treaty reference to "a high level of employment".

  13.  The Working Group concluded from the outset that the competences should not be extended, although it did call for the modification of Article 152 (public health) in order to extend its coverage to matters such as a grave cross-border threat, communicable diseases, bio terrorism and WHO agreements. The TUC supports the ETUC contribution to the Working Group, calling for the existing employment and social policy competences to be retained, although streamlined and updated in their formulation. In the Labour Market/Employment areas, emphasis should be put on employability and quality of jobs. Reference to social inclusion and eradication of poverty should be stressed. There will continue to be shared competences with the Union acting through legislation establishing minimum requirements or, as appropriate, through the open method of co-ordination. Contractual arrangements (framework agreements) between the Social Partners should continue.

  14.  In the Employment/Social policy areas, "policy co-ordination" was been initiated with the Luxembourg Process, following the introduction of a Title on Employment in the Amsterdam Treaty. Later, in 2000, the Lisbon Council introduced the "open method of co-ordination" (OMC), which is now being applied to social inclusion and social protection. In contrast to Luxembourg, this new process has no legal basis in the Treaty. In view of the fact that the Luxembourg Process has proved its worth over the last five years, the method of policy co-ordination should be recognised in Part I of the Constitutional Treaty, as the Working Group recommends, but with the details of its contents and procedures dealt with in Part II.

  15.  The OMC should be applied in policy areas where primary responsibility remains with Member States (social protection, pensions; social inclusion, education and training, public health). However, it must not be considered as a substitute for EU legislation when this is required, for example, in the setting of minimum social standards. Parliamentary scrutiny at both European and national levels should be envisaged as well as a wide-ranging consultation process, in particular with the Social Partners (as in the final report of the Working Group on Economic Governance).

  16.  The Working Group agreed the need to streamline the various economic and social co-ordination processes, with the Spring European Council having responsibility for ensuring coherence, with the necessary procedures to ensure this, formalised in the Treaty.

  17.  In reference to this, parliamentary scrutiny at the European and national levels, as well as the Social Partners' involvement needs to be reinforced. It should be noted that the Social Partners, in their joint submission to the Laeken European Council (2001) proposed that "the Standing Committee on Employment be replaced by a "Tripartite Concertation Committee for Growth and Employment" which would be the forum for concertation between the Social Partners and the public authorities on the Lisbon strategy. In addition to its specific work on the broad economic policy guidelines, on the employment guidelines and on structural reform, this committee would examine the Community's overall economic and social strategy ahead of the Spring Council. The Commission has submitted a proposal for consideration by the Council and the Constitutional Treaty should provide for such a Social Summit to take place in relation to the Spring Council.

  18.  The case for extending qualified majority voting linked with European Parliament co-decision across the board in a number of policy areas is longstanding. It will be even more necessary in an enlarged Europe. This applies to the adoption of minimum requirements in the areas of Article 137 where unanimity is presently required. An exception could be made for "social security and the social protection of workers" (137.1(c)), although the technical co-ordination of social security systems (Regulation 1408/71; Art 42 of the Treaty) should also be decided by QMV. The Working Group consensus, however, was based on the compromise reached at Nice.

  19.  The TUC also maintains its position in favour of deletion of Article 137.5 of the Nice Treaty, which excludes pay, the right of association, the right to strike or the right to impose lockouts. The Group was unable to reach consensus on this, although a number of members felt that this exclusion was obsolete. However, the Group noted that with respect to pay, while the Treaty provision rules out the adoption of uniform minimum requirements on pay, it does not rule out the possibility of adopting measures under other provisions of the Treaty, even if these measures have an impact on pay.

  20.  The Working Group recommended that the role of the Social Partners be recognised explicitly in the Constitutional Treaty, that adequate consultation provisions should be included and that existing arrangements for negotiation of social agreements should be enhanced. Furthermore, civil society organisations should also be given a role, especially in combating social exclusion, without prejudice to the existing special position of social partners in the social dialogue process.

  21.  This is needed:

    —  In view of the role the Social Partners play in economic governance, the labour market, and social policy in all Member States, including in the new ones;

    —  Since a number of policy decisions in these areas are taken at European level, this transfer of responsibility must be matched by a comparable Social Partner involvement at the same level;

    —  Taking into account the existing "acquis" represented by the Treaty provisions (including the recognition of the Social Partners' role as co-regulators on labour market related issues—Articles 137-139);

    —  Bearing in mind that after Lisbon the European Council is constantly calling on the Social Partners to contribute to the implementation of the overall EU economic, employment and sustainability strategy;

    —  Considering the current practice of involving the Social Partners in economic governance procedures such as the Macroeconomic Dialogue (since Cologne 1999), the Luxembourg Employment Process (since 1997) and the Social Summits associated with European Council meetings.

  22.  The European Social Partners (ETUC, UNICE, CEEP) made a joint contribution to the Working Group calling for the inclusion in Part I of the Treaty, Article 34 (participatory democracy) of the following:

    —  "The EU recognises and promotes the involvement of social partners in Europe's economic and social governance, taking into account the diversity of national industrial relations systems. The EU promotes and supports social dialogue between Social Partners (Management and Labour), respecting their autonomy."

  23.  In Part II of the Treaty the European Social Partners called for:

    —  With regard to social policy (to be dealt with in Part II of the draft Constitutional Treaty in the section on areas where the Union has shared powers with Member States), the new Treaty should incorporate, as they stand, Articles 138 and 139 of the current Treaty.

    —  With regard to employment policy (to be dealt with in Part II of the draft Constitutional Treaty in the section where the Union may take supporting action), the need to consult the Social Partners should be clearly stated.

    —  With regard to training policy (to be dealt with in Part II of the draft Constitutional Treaty in the section on areas where the Union may take supporting action), a reference to the need to consult the social partners should also be included in the Treaty.

  24.  By anchoring the role and rights of the European Social Partners as co-regulators and their involvement in EU decision-making procedures regarding consultation and concertation, in the Treaty, the principle of "horizontal subsidiarity" is applied. This offers real advantages in flexibility, through the framework agreement approach, for example, where a principle can be negotiated at European level and derogated to national, sectoral and shop-floor level for implementation by collective agreement.

February 2003

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