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How the economic crisis is being used to attack employment rights across Europe

Tony Burke 15/6/12
How the economic crisis is being used to attack employment rights across Europe

A new Working Paper by Isabelle Schömann (ETUI) and  Stefan Clauwaert (ETUI) “The Crisis and National Labour Law Reforms: A Mapping Exercise” sets out how the economic crisis is being used to fuel attacks on working people and trade unions across Europe through the introduction or re-introduction of anti-trade union legislation.

The reforms described in the booklet generally weaken existing labour law provisions, introduce more flexible and precarious working agreements, loosen minimum standards and introduce more de-regulation.

In some EU countries it consists of piecemeal - although significant deregulatory measures - while in others such as Hungary, Greece and Ireland it involves the far-reaching overhaul of labour laws where collective bargaining mechanisms are being dismantled.

In the UK we have seen the introduction of the Beecroft Report, drawn up by the chairman of the company which ultimately own the “pay day loans” company

His proposals include not only making it easier to dismiss workers via a “protected conversation” with a worker facing dismissal, making it harder to seek justice at an Employment Tribunal but also changes to such fundamentals as child labour laws all of which are detailed on the TUC website.

In several countries fundamental changes are being made to industrial relations structures and processes, which set out to undermine long held social dialogue structures between employers, unions and the government agencies.

Many of the changes to employment rights are being proposed by employers and the technocrats running some governments (aided and abetted at times by the EU Commission) as ideological attacks which, as we know, will do nothing to create employment or re-balance economies. The changes to UK legislation are ideological and return some aspects of employment protection to the Thatcher era – some go further – much of the Beecroft Report is Conservative Party “unfinished business” against unions and workers.

The authors of this booklet critically address this large-scale deregulation of labour law currently taking place, in particular the lack of democratic foundations underlying the reforms and their negative impact on fundamental social rights and workers’ protection.

The working paper is also complemented with an annex providing an analysis of the reforms on a country-by-country basis and is downloadable in English only.

As employers and Governments mount a continuing attack on the European Social Model, the booklet is a useful tool to explain why we need to fight back against the austerity measures being introduced across Europe but also why working people and trade unions need to mount a counter attack against the dismantling of the social model.


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