I veckan fick jag förmånen att tala på PES Konventet i Bryssel. Eftersom det hela föregick på engelska kändes det säkrast att skriva ner det i förväg. Tänkte att det vore synd att låta texten förfaras och lägger därför upp det här på bloggen. Kanske är det någon som tycker temat är intressant? Även om det är på engelska…
”Our European societies have changed over the last decades. Migration has been one important factor in those changes. The significance of what’s happening has been downplayed for a long time. Deeply felt experiences have been declared off limits. It might be time for some self reflection within the European labour movement as xenophobic right wing parties gain ground inEurope.
Migration has to be discussed with a multitude of parallel perspectives at the same time. I will try to make some important distinctions. However, my focus will not be migration as such, but rather labour mobility within the free movement of services. My focus will be a series of judgement by the European Court of Justice, the business court in Luxemburg, starting with Laval, which has created important social, economic and political tensions within the European construction.
First of all, migration and labour supply through posting of workers are not identical phenomena. Labour sent to another country to work is in the host-country temporarily. Posted workers have generally no interest of integrating themselves into the host country. Migrants on the other hand leave their country of origin, often with their families, and have to face new realities in the host-country. They are no guests. They are new members of the country to which they have migrated.
In trade unions we promise each other to defend our pay and working conditions. Trade unions are cartels on the labour market. It is the understanding of many – that if some reduce their pay and working conditions, then competition and social dumping occurs. The collective agreement is vow. It is the most successful method of competitive neutrality in labour costs. Without collective agreement everyone is worse of.
Trade Union ideology has two different roots. One could either put emphasis on the function of competitive neutrality. Where trade unions are a method to prevent low wage competition. And membership is a value for your own interest. Through the trade union, in collective struggle with others, you can improve your wage and working conditions. Trade unionism is materialism.
The other perspective is trade unions as solidarity, or even as relief or aid, Trade unions help those which are worse of. Trade unionism is benevolence or goodness. Trade unionism is idealism. This root can be traced back to Christianity. All the way back to the Sermon of the Mount.
However, there are no inherent conflicts between these two perspectives. Both are equally important. But when labour supply through posting of workers is discussed one could easily come different conclusions as to equal treatment of workers. With competitive neutrality as a starting point you’ll probably conclude that there should be no competition on wages or working conditions. If the going wage for construction work in, lets say,Denmark is 18 euros per hour, than posted workers should be paid 18 euros as well. However, with the idealistic perspective you would probably conclude that the wage should be fair. A living wage maybe, where the posted workers could settle with a lower wage. Perhaps at 12 euros.
Let me be clear, Swedish trade unions do not accept competition on wages. We didn’t do it 100 years ago. And we don’t do it today. The basic principles which should be guiding European legislation should 1) establish clear cut host state principle. The former ETUC general secretary, John Monks, used to express this as “When in Rome do as the Romans”. 2) Equal treatment of workers, as mentioned, posted workers should have same wages and working conditions as domestic workers.
Trade Unions are sometimes portrayed as xenophobic. It is not only incorrect. It is offensive. It is a way of marginalising legitimate demands and concerns. One has to make a distinction between the demand for equal treatment as to wages and working conditions. And demands for cultural, religious or other value oriented assimilation. These are two different spheres. Our demands for equal treatment concerns wages and working conditions. Not how people chose to lead their lives.
TheLaval judgment in December 2007 exposed serious weaknesses of the EU legal framework:
The European Court of Justice, the business court inLuxembourg, confirmed a hierarchy of norms, with market freedoms highest in the hierarchy, and the fundamental social rights of collective bargaining and strike in second place.
The business court interpreted the Posting Directive in a very restrictive way, limiting the scope forMemberStatesand trade unions to take action against social dumping and to demand equal treatment between local and posted workers in the host country.
This development has not only worried the trade union movement. A series of judgements from the Human Court of Justice inStrasbourgopposes the development within EU law.
Since 2008 Swedish and European trade unions has been urging the EU institutions to take action to address these problems. 1) The EU should revise the legislative framework by adopting a Social Progress Protocol to the Treaty, which should clarify the relationship between economic freedoms and fundamental social rights. 2) The EU should revise the Posting of Workers Directive and reinstall its minimum character.
However, now, nearly four years after theLavaljudgement, the Commission will finally take legislative action. It will propose a Regulation on the relation between fundamental social rights and economic freedoms (the so called ‘Monti II Regulation’) as well as a Directive on the implementation of the PWD.
It is not everything we asked for. Not nearly half. But it is a start. A beginning towards a better balance between trade union freedoms and the economic rights of employers.
The Monti II regulation will provide some improvements to the EU legal framework. It will strengthen national courts and member states in assessing the legality of strikes with a cross border dimension. It will also clarify that it is the court in the member state where an industrial action is planned to take place or has taken place that will be competent. This might sound technical, but is of practical importance.
However, Monti II cannot remove the imbalances in the EU Treaty. Secondary law cannot change primary law. For this a Social Progress Protocol is needed. Our best shoot for a Social Protocol will be in the upcoming negotiations on Treaty changes prepared by the German and French governments.
Some voices have been raised against the idea of a Monti II regulation. The basic argument being that its dangerous and only partly repairs the EU legal framework. I don’t share that view.
There are two basic views on politics. One could set up an utopia and say no to all initiatives that doesn’t fullfil utopia today. It’s an all or nothing approach. However, I come from a political culture where you do the very best with what you got. A pragmatic political culture. For me that is social democracy.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. And neither will a socially balanced European Union be built in a day. But Monti II will be a start.