Contrary to the impression that is systematically cultivated in the labor market in Cyprus, but not only in Cyprus, that collective and sectoral labor agreements and participation in trade unions are an anachronistic – counterproductive form of labor organization and consultation / negotiation between employers and employees , the resolution adopted (with a proposal by the Group of the Left) on Wednesday by the European Parliament (365 votes in favor, 118 against and 208 abstentions) to reduce inequality and poverty of workers emphasizes in many places the need for the European Commission and the Member States to promote decisions and measures for the protection of existing collective agreements and their extension to areas where their signing is currently hindered. The resolution, in fact, links the existence of collective agreements with maintaining and offering better working conditions and preventing further deregulation of labor relations, which leads to an increase in informal and precarious work and the gradual impoverishment of millions of workers.
The resolution states, citing figures from the OECD and other organizations, that coverage of collective bargaining in OECD countries has fallen from 46% to 32% in the last three decades, on average. It is also noted that in at least 14 EU countries 50% of workers work without a collective agreement and that only in seven Member States of the Union the coverage rate by collective agreements exceeds 80%. It should be noted that the reduction in the rate of coverage of workers by collective agreements was greater and faster in countries that implemented structural reforms, which targeted, inter alia, collective agreements.
The tendency to abolish or avoid collective bargaining is stronger outside the EU. The resolution states that, globally, the number of countries where workers do not have the right to form or join trade unions has increased from 92 to 107, between 2018 and 2019 and -unfortunately- the largest increase, according to the resolution, was recorded in Europe. Already, in 40% of European countries workers are not allowed to join unions, with 68% of countries violating the right to strike and 50% violating the right to collective bargaining. The situation is even worse in rural (European) areas, where it is more difficult for workers to gain trade union representation and negotiate local and sectoral collective agreements.
The consequences of Covid 19
The absence or weakening of collective bargaining and collective bargaining is directly linked to the rise of non-formal employment, with clearly worse working conditions and lower wages, both of which are linked to the increased proportion of European workers at risk of poverty. The resolution notes that 16.2% of part-time or part-time workers are more exposed to the risk of poverty, compared to 6.1% of workers with an indefinite contract. At the same time, the percentage of workers living in households at risk of poverty increased from 8% to 9.4% (approximately 20 million people) within 10 years.
In fact, things have become and are getting worse in the last year, after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, the rapid deterioration began with the financial crisis of 2008. The resolution specifically states: “Unemployment and precarious and informal employment rose sharply during the 2008 financial crisis and the Covid 19 crisis social consequences of job losses, the implementation of part-time work and the financial difficulties faced by, for example, small and medium-sized enterprises, small crafts, small traders and cross-border workers. “Because of the crisis of the disease,” he added, “the middle class is shrinking, the gap between rich and poor is widening and imbalances within and between Member States are widening.” According to the data provided, during the pandemic 50% of workers in the EU experienced a reduction in working time, while more than a third (34%) of workers reported that they had reduced “much” and 16% that they had reduced “a little”.
Cited by Eurofound data, the resolution states that 75% of EU citizens say their financial situation is now worse than it was before the pandemic, while 68% report difficulties in coping with living needs for more than three months. without income. 16% believe that they are likely to lose their jobs in the near future, as the current economic crisis may have long-term consequences, especially for young or vulnerable workers.
Measures against inequality
Among other things, Parliament calls on the European Commission and the Member States to promote collective bargaining and to adapt their national law when it interferes with collective bargaining, and to respect and enforce the right to a fair minimum wage.
In particular, paragraph 7 states: (the European Parliament) calls on the Commission and the Member States to work towards the goal of comparable living conditions, through an upward social and economic convergence, to address the growing disparities between and between Member States and increase solidarity. Encourages the Member States to strengthen collective bargaining systems and to ensure a minimum level of social protection and a social security system for all age groups; emphasizes that these objectives can be achieved through means such as a minimum income, minimum wages and minimum pensions under the first pillar, in accordance with the competences and legislation of each Member State, and respecting all the general principles of the European Union, including fundamental rights, proportionality, legal certainty, equality before the law and subsidiarity ».
It calls on the EU to implement a comprehensive European strategy to combat poverty, with ambitious goals of reducing poverty and eradicating extreme poverty in Europe by 2030. Parliament calls on the Commission and the Member States to do so. Member States to introduce effective measures against tax evasion and tax fraud “which will be an important means of reducing economic inequalities and improving tax revenues in the Member States”.
Organizing unions and their access to workplaces
Elsewhere in the resolution, the statement said: “(The EP) calls on the Commission to monitor and the Member States to ensure that all workers have the right to organize and bargain collectively, and to take immediate action in the event of a breach of this right. Calls on the Member States to ensure that trade unions have access to the workplace, including distance work, for the purpose of organizing, exchanging information and consulting. Urges the Commission, in order to avoid competition for wages, to improve the public procurement directives so that only those who do not undermine existing collective agreements can participate in them; calls on the Member States to ensure that compliance, monitoring and enforcement. (EP) Recognizes that digitization and globalization have led to a significant increase in self-employment and informal employment; welcomes the Commission's commitment to assessing the need for EU-wide measures to enable individual self-employed people to unite and as well as its commitment to propose regulatory changes where necessary and the recent public consultation on this issue; awaits the publication of the impact assessment of the initial choices for future action; stresses that this should not delay any other initiative Commission on combating false self-employment and guaranteeing the rights of workers in the form of informal employment “.
The importance of minimum wages
With regard to the need to protect workers with adequate minimum wages, the EP resolution recognizes the importance of the Commission's proposal for a Directive to ensure that workers in the EU are protected by adequate minimum wages to ensure a decent living (p. In Cyprus, employers' associations expressed disagreements at a preliminary stage) and stressed that “the Directive must provide clear safeguards in the Member States where wages are generally the subject of collective bargaining by the social partners”. It also recalls the proposed measures of the commission's policy guidelines for 2019-24, which aim to ensure that workers in the EU have a fair minimum wage, which allows them to live a decent life, wherever they work. Continuing its reference to the promoted Directive, the EP notes that it considers that the Directive should ensure, through collective agreements and institutionalized minimum wages, that no worker or family is at risk of poverty and that everyone can live on the basis of their work and participate in society. He emphasizes that “the final directive should ensure that the legal minimum wage – where appropriate – is always set above the poverty line.” Elsewhere, it emphasizes the need to ensure that employers do not adopt practices that deduct from the minimum wage the costs required to perform the work, such as housing, required clothing, tools, personal protection and other equipment.