MEPs debated today a report that elaborates with concrete proposals the Pillar of Social Rights which were unveiled by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in 2015.

GUE/NGL’s shadow for the report Gabi Zimmer MEP welcomed the initiative for a Pillar of Social Rights but called for real policies to be implemented:

“There are 120 million people living in poverty in Europe with millions working in precarious conditions whilst being paid low salaries. The EU must make their lives better, not worse. Only a Pillar of Social Rights that is meaningful and backed with sufficient money is a step in the right direction.”

“Juncker made a big commitment when he announced a Pillar of Social Rights for the EU. If the Commission fails to deliver on its promise then citizens will lose their trust in the EU.”

“A Pillar of Social Rights must create new social rights, social investment and social standards. We do not need a pillar made of paper. We need a pillar made of concrete,” she added. 

The German MEP also highlighted the most important report recommendations that the Commission and member states must consider:

“This report contains important demands for the Commission and member states: a directive guaranteeing decent work conditions for everyone and forbidding zero-hour contracts, which is of great importance in the age of digital work.”

“A guarantee of a minimum wage to support the poorest families. A guarantee of free education, free child care, decent housing and nutrition for children to break from the poverty cycle.  It calls also for EU accession to the European Social Charter of the Council of Europe,” said Zimmer.

GUE/NGL MEP João Pimenta Lopes criticised the report for falling short of what is really needed:   

“The attacks on social rights in Europe have been promoted for decades by the Right and social democrats and they derive from a class matrix.”

“This Social Pillar opens the way for the harmonisation of labour, social protection systems and social security, pushing forward an offensive against the rights of workers, reducing the standards of labour and social rights – subjugated to the mechanisms of the economic and Euro governance – and feeding the policies of impoverishment and exploitation.

Pimenta Lopes detailed the policies starkly absent in the proposed report, which was supposed to tackle Europe’s social deficit:

“The regulation of working hours with a maximum working day of eight hours; equal pay for equal work, the end of precarious employment; collective hiring and recognition of the role of workers' organisations; the real increase in wages and a fair and effective distribution of wealth, the defense of a public social security – all these are not included in the proposed report.”

Irish MEP Lynn Boylan, meanwhile, said that the Pillar of Social Rights must represent what the citizens of Europe need and want:

“It is my hope that through the contributions made by the Parliament, social partners and civil society that the social pillar can be aligned so as to guarantee social rights in the manner that citizens deserve, and in a manner that will address poverty, income inequality and other serious social injustices.”

“We need to work towards a situation where social policy is not considered a burden to economic growth, but rather the two are considered to be symbiotic. It is a chance for the EU to move in a new direction, to prove it has the capability to change post Brexit,” said Boylan.

Greek MEP Kostadinka Kuneva questioned the relevance of the existing European social model:

“Europe is famous for its social model but if we look at the people who are unemployed in Greece and the new contracts being brought in countries like Germany, these are the slaves of the 21st century. Do we have so much to be proud of anymore?”

“The Social Pillar which provides for free collective bargaining on wages and other working conditions should also require each member state, the European Commission and the European Central Bank to support this position. Therefore, it should not impose the abolition of collective agreements – using the IMF´s stance as an excuse – as they are trying to do in the case of Greece,” she concluded.

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