CoR members adopted today the opinion of Isolde Ries, First Vice-President of the Saarland Regional Parliament (Germany), which responds to a European Commission's proposal for a Directive that complements and modernises existing obligations to inform workers of their working conditions. As a follow-up to the European Pillar of Social Rights, the Directive replaces the 1991 Written Statement Directive. "This proposal must be the starting point for a broader debate about the future of work and as such, it can strengthen people's trust in the European project", said the rapporteur in her introductory remarks. "Transparency and predictability in working conditions ensure that competition does not take precedence over social rights, promote fair competition among Member States and reduce barriers to the freedom of movement for workers in the EU", she underlined.
The European Commission proposal sets new minimum standards to ensure that all workers, including those on atypical contracts, benefit from more predictability and clarity as regards their working conditions. The Directive addresses forms of employment currently often excluded (e.g. domestic workers, or workers on very short contracts); covers new forms of employment (on-demand, voucher-based or platform workers); ensures that workers get the right information from day one of their employment; creates new minimum rights (e.g. greater predictability for those working with a variable schedule, transition to a more stable form of employment and written reply, training without deduction from salary); and reinforces the means of enforcement and redress.
The CoR opinion proposes several legislative amendments to the European Commission proposal, addressing the loopholes when applying exceptions to the general provisions of the Directive. It strongly supports a minimum level of fair working conditions across the EU for all different forms of employment contracts. The rapporteur draws attention to work in the platform economy and non-standard forms of employment, and calls for a ban on zero-hours contracts. She highlights the important role of local end regional authorities in designing, implementing and evaluating measures in areas where they often have key competences, such as social and employment policy. She also acknowledges the role of social partners when it comes to regulating minimum rights through collective agreements, provided that the minimum standards set in the Directive are not undercut.
Isolde Ries supports most of the thresholds set in the European Commission Directive but opposes the proposed exemption from the information obligation for foreign assignments with a duration of no more than four consecutive weeks, recommending reducing the period of the exemption to no more than two weeks. Likewise, she does not agree with the exemption of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises from the obligation to provide a written reply within one month of a worker's request for transition to a form of employment with more predictable and secure working conditions. "This exception would significantly weaken the position of some 65 million workers in the EU, since it would cover all enterprises with up to 249 employees, representing 99% of all businesses in Europe", she explained.