An EU directive on minimum wages “risks undermining collective bargaining and adding complexities to the recovery and resilience of the EU economy”, said Stefano Mallia, who represents employers on the Economic and European Social Council (EESC), at EURACTIV.
Instead, he proposed a “competitiveness check to assess the impact of [EU initiatives] companies, specifying that this control will not “infringe the protection of human, social and labor rights or the standards of environmental and consumer protection”.
“Let me be clear: according to the European Commission’s trade review, already in 2024, 85% of global GDP growth is expected to come from outside the EU. So Europe’s continued socio-economic prosperity depends on its ability to take advantage of this global growth,” said Mallia, President of the Employers’ Group at the EESC.
The EESC has 18 members in the plenary of the Conference on the Future of Europe and Mallia represents the EESC in the working group on the economy.
Regulating smart working
On smart working, Mallia said the pandemic has brought employers to a new normal, as before the health crisis “less than 5% of employees regularly worked from home, and less than 10% occasionally.”
These days, “more than a third of employees work solely from home,” he said, adding that teleworking “must be tailored to the needs of each specific business.”
At the moment, Mallia explained, smart working is “covered by existing legislation regarding working times, health and safety, anti-discrimination and work-life balance”. There is also a “framework agreement at EU level between the social partners which specifically addresses telework. Agreements are implemented at national, sectoral and company level in various ways”.
Its proposal is “to encourage companies to invest in new working methods”.
“The EU and its Member States must ensure a business-friendly environment and help establish good conditions for teleworking through investment in digital infrastructure, education and training, research and innovation, but we must avoid to introduce restrictive and rigid regulation, which discourages innovation and hinders workplace and sector-specific solutions”.
Digitization and work
“National education and training systems must be rapidly modernized to anticipate and provide the skills and abilities adapted to the needs of current and future labor markets”, said Mallia, referring to the need to properly address the challenge of the digital transition. .
“For example, new needs in terms of jobs and skills are already emerging in the health sector. As new industries emerge or current industries evolve, there will be more and more demand for the skills that come with those industries.
According to Mallia, “work-linked vocational training or apprenticeships should be better promoted and developed at Member State level”, paying particular attention “to STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) and digital skills”.
However, from Mallia’s point of view, there are several initiatives that can be promoted at EU level, such as “promoting the digitalisation of European companies, through a specific scoreboard allowing companies to compare their degree of digitalisation, with the overall aim of increasing competitiveness”.
Another challenge would be to promote opportunities for cross-border training and intra-European mobility, he said.
Monitoring of CoFoE proposals
Mallia said citizens had clearly urged the EU to improve the environment, working and education conditions, increase incomes, as well as improve “family rights, gender equality and , which is very important, housing”.
Commenting on the recommendations made by citizens at the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE), Mallia said: “We must take these proposals into consideration, but also stress that economic prosperity and concern for well-being people have to go hand in hand”.
“I firmly believe that to be able to respond to citizens’ demands, we must also have proposals that allow us to build a stronger economic base that will generate enough economic well-being to effectively afford the social measures that citizens wish so much”.
Mallia also called for “full transparency in the drafting process”, explaining to citizens “which of their proposals are already being implemented, which can be considered under the current treaties and which will require treaty change and when. it will be expected that such a change can be considered”.
Mallia positively assessed the work of citizens at the CoFoE, saying they had shown a commitment that deserves “full respect”.
“What is clear to me is that the outcome of the conference should be realistic and manageable and avoid imposing unnecessary burdens on businesses. The pandemic and the war in Ukraine have left huge scars on the economic landscape, and it will take a long time for many businesses to recover,” Mallia said.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic/Alice Taylor]