One year after the Proclamation of the European Pillar of Social Rights in Gothenburg, the European Parliament has voted in favour of a directive on predictable working conditions which has the potential to become a cornerstone of democracy at the workplace. This vote, which was by no means a foregone conclusion, is fundamental for strengthening and implementing the European Pillar of Social Rights. It is evident that work-life balance is not the most essential component of the Pillar, but working conditions are an important part of a better quality of life. At a time when the burden and stress of work is not only due to the volume of work, but very much due to precarious working conditions and uncertainties and lack of sustainable contracts, such a legal step will help in the European election campaign to demonstrate that it is worth engaging and that progressives and their allies make a difference!
While it might not matter so much whether the outgoing Commission President can claim a legacy of having got “something done”, it is worth noting that “something” has been done. However it is no more than a brick in the wall, and the wall still has to be built – we are a long way from meeting the goals of the Pillar, the social AAA. Inequalities have not been reduced. It is not enough to present growth and job creation figures, we know that employment conditions and job quality must also be taken into account. However, the good news is that collective action for improvement has even led one of the low cost carriers from Ireland (their low costs translating into notoriously low salaries) to accept collective bargaining and social improvements. If we compare the airline as a workplace to the factories of 100 years ago, we see the same attitudes and capitalist mentality: too many contributing to the benefit of too few.
Bearing in mind last weekend’s commemoration of the 100th anniversary of WW I, it is worth remembering that social unrest, the feeling of insecurity and exploitation has always nourished nationalism and ended with workers from different countries turning against each other. If the EU is to be the Peace project it aspires to be, the European Army is an issue, but social peace is the cornerstone for the stabilisation of our democratic system, based on a democratic rule of law, including workers’ rights. If we want to mobilise people to vote in favour of a progressive European project in the next European elections, we need these small victories to generate comprehensive and sustainable social legislation for all. This will also be on the agenda of our European conference next Thursday. So let’s do it #Together!