On 17 November 2017, European political leaders met in Gothenburg, Sweden, at the occasion of the Social Summit for Fair Jobs and Growth. The high-level meeting was intended to mark a historic step towards re-stating the commitment for a real European Social Model, including through the proclamation of the European Pillar of Social Rights by European leaders. The Pillar, launched by the European Commission in April this year, is a set of twenty guiding principles aiming at reaching equal opportunities and access to the labour market, fair working conditions, and social protection and inclusion to all citizens.

This initiative, directly feeding into the debates on the Future of Europe, and setting the ground for a fairer, more social European Union, has been supported by European trade unions from the beginning. As the European economic crisis has put a halt to socially progressive policies, and left millions of workers in face of precarious jobs, low wages and unfair working conditions, unions all across Europe have relentlessly called on European and national authorities to lift the ban on public investment, wages growth and enable social protection oriented policies. Now, at a time of economic recovery for businesses, the European Pillar of Social Rights is a vital window of opportunity for fostering a virtuous cycle of renewed investment, adequate wages, social fairness, ultimately leading to upwards convergence of social standards, economic growth, and the improvement of working and living conditions for all.

During his intervention, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) General Secretary Luca Visentini reminded European leaders present to the Summit of the responsibilities underlying to the proclamation of the Pillar: “It’s about reaffirming rights and protections that were neglected. It’s about making sure that they are implemented and reinforced in practice. It’s about making sure that the social dimension is not a compensation for those left behind, but has the same level of importance as economic freedoms.

That’s why we are convinced that the Social Pillar will not deliver if it’s not framed in economic governance, in the European Semester, and if it’s not supported by a stronger EU Budget. That’s why we are convinced that the Proclamation of the Pillar must be followed by an Action Plan for implementation, made of legislation and concrete initiatives.

This concern is shared by ETUCE European Director Susan Flocken, who commented: “Today, European leaders have persistently stated their commitment to quality education and training as vital for the Future of Europe.

However, such political commitment should be supported by the European budget and a real increase in public investment. The right to quality and inclusive education, training and life-long learning as stated in the Pillar is a long-lasting principle advocated by ETUCE, as it stands  as a ground stone for just, equal and democratic societies.

Teachers and other education personnel are key to contribute to quality education and their demands for decent working conditions, pay and professional development have been ignored for too long. We are adamant that the principles enunciated in the Pillar shouldn’t remain idle words, but be translated into concrete actions.”

ETUCE joins the ETUC in the call for a timely and comprehensive Action Plan, and will carefully monitor the European Union and Member States’ efforts in implementing the principles they committed to today.

Download the European Pillar of Social Rights here.