EU Commission says no to social partner agreement

EU Commission says no to social partner agreement on health and safety of hairdressers

UNI Europa protests against the hush-hush operation of the Commission. It decided to block the request of the social partners to transform their agreement into law for several years.

In its “Refit – fit for growth” Communication published today, the Commission blocks the request of the social partners in hairdressing to transform their agreement on health and safety into law. While not taking a final decision, it indicates that it does not intend to address the issue until 2015 – at the end of a broader review on occupational health and safety legislation.

“The Commission does not live up to its political and legal responsibility to decide on a request of the social partners in a timely and impartial way,” said Oliver Roethig, UNI Europa Regional Secretary. “The handling of this agreement unmasks the current Commission’s real intention to roll back the European social model, the rights of workers and trade unions.”

The agreement on hairdressing is based on close cooperation and diligent work of the trade unions and employers from the sector addressing real needs of both sides. Skin diseases have the highest occurrence in this profession and cause substantial costs. Arguing, as the Commission does, that small and medium-sized companies have highlighted the agreement as burdensome and costly is a slap in the face of the employees and small businesses that make up the sector. Here too the principle of subsidiarity should count: that the people concerned know best.

Poul Monggaard, President of UNI Europa Hair & Beauty adds: “The Commission announced its negative decision on the agreement without giving the social partners any say nor informing them beforehand. It is an unprecedented step of disregard that is improper and unacceptable.”

The decision comes after Commissioner Andor gave trade unions assurance on behalf of President Barroso that the Commission will only decide “on the basis of a comprehensive and impartial assessment of the agreement”.

Denying the hairdressing social partners due process indicates that this issue has become a highly politicised vehicle for those within the Commission and national governments that oppose EU legislation in the social field and social dialogue.

“It is an attack on the health of workers, an attack on the role for the social partners as foreseen by the EU Treaty. It is ideologically driven and aims at placating Euro-sceptics in some European countries,” continues Roethig, “This is not acceptable for trade unions, workers and the citizens of Europe. The Commission should do its duty and facilitate social dialogue rather than undermining it.”

The decision against the hairdressing sector is embedded in a broader strategy to diminish the role of the EU, in particular in terms of occupational health and safety – an area where the EU has broad concrete progress for workers since the 1970s. Indeed, legislation in this field has almost exclusively been developed jointly by the member states to ensure good working standards throughout the EU.

The vision that is emerging in these last months of the Barroso Commission is one of reversing the social progress achieved during all its predecessor Commissions. In these times of crisis, Europe needs more cohesion and solidarity, for the future of its citizens and the future of the European Union. Measured against these essentials, the Barroso Commission has become anti-European and indeed anti-social.


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