On 16 November 2017, the EU Social Summit in Gothenburg, Sweden, is due to adopt the European Pillar of Social Rights. While joining the European trade union movement’s call for the adoption of stronger Pillar of Social Rights, a commitment to implement it and the full involvement of social partners, ETUCE strongly backs the demand for a Social Progress Protocol to Restore Social Europe and improving the binding nature of the Pillar. Looking to the future, this is essential to ensure social rights are respected by all EU institutions and European countries.

Since the economic and financial crisis of 2008, the austerity doctrine and the deficit obsession were often used to justify structural reforms, unilateral adjustments, especially in the public sector, and several labour market reforms, leading to an overall lowering of workers’ rights across Europe and poor quality jobs. The economic governance coordination mechanism (European Semester) took on the economic and fiscal dimension, disregarding its impact in the social field. Despite the recent call for  rebalancing economic and social priorities, internal market and fiscal rules are to continue to take the precedence over vulnerable social rights, if this friction is not solved.

A Treaty change to ensure that social rights are not subordinate to and limited by economic rules is a necessity.

ETUCE fully backs the proposal of the European Trade Union Confederation for a Social Progress Protocol that puts social rights on the same standing of economic and fiscal targets across Europe”, said Susan Flocken, ETUCE European Director, “we need a Social Progress Protocol to rebalance the European foundation: to move from nice words to real change for European workers, including in all the sectors of education”.

Educational objectives, together with employment and social considerations, were a priority in the most recent European Semester cycles. However, ETUCE has been warning that the dominance of economic issues sometimes overshadowed broad education policy objectives that are vital to life and society as well as the economy, and relegated education policy to be only a tool of a supply-side economic policy.

A Social Progress Protocol and a reform of the European Semester are vital to achieve a balance between economic and social concerns; to support ETUCE call for public investment in education, and to assist the trade union movement in its fight to stop labour reform policies that adapt or lower workers’ rights”, concluded Susan Flocken.