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ISSUE 58 page 4

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Professional qualifications to go pan-EU, again

MOBILITY OF LABOUR IS ONE OF THE FOUNDING principles of the European Union but professionals in occupations that entail long training periods and state regulation of qualifications have often found that moving around the EU is not as easy as promised. Despite passing a directive in 2005 (see issue 31) on the recognition of professional qualifications, the European Commission feels that the current arrangements do not make it easy enough for highly skilled people to move to where demand for them is strongest. They propose a number of measures to modernise the 2005 law. A ‘European Professional Card’ will be held as an electronic certificate so that a professional body in one Member State can quickly check and recognise the status of a temporary skilled worker from another. Examples given by the Commission include an architect visiting the house of a foreign client or a teacher accompanying a school trip. For professionals seeking a more permanent move there should be a ‘point of single contact’ in each country where they can find all the relevant   documents, both online and in hard-copy, that they need to be recognised. Among the seven professions which already have automatic recognition across the EU the Commission wants to tighten things up, no doubt as a response to reports of foreign doctors giving lethal doses to patients. Minimum training requirements for doctors, dentists, pharmacists, nurses, midwives, veterinary surgeons and architects will be updated, the authorities in all Member States will be obliged to circulate lists of banned health care professionals and to set up EU-wide training frameworks. Once these are in place new professions could apply for  automatic recognition if they took similar measures.
All Member States will have to justify why they regulate each professional occupation, currently numbering 800, which will then be evaluated by the Commission. Other provisions of the proposals take into account recent European Court of Justice Cases on partial qualification and employment of notaries as well as dealing with qualified professionals who have not yet completed their traineeship and the checking of language skills. The EU commissioner for the internal market and services, Michel Barnier, said that the proposal ‘responds to the need to have a smooth system of recognition of qualifications in order to support the mobility of professionals across Europe. It will make it easier for well qualified professionals to go where job vacancies exist’.

Maltese pensions  ‘unsustainable’ but no agreement on way forward
Migrant worker win for Slovenian unions
THE SMALL ISLAND COUNTRY OF MALTA seems to be the EU Member State most affected so far by the much-heralded ‘demographic time-bomb’ as it already has one person aged over 64 for every four between 15 and 64. Consequently all stake-holders agree that the present ‘pay-as-you-go’ pension is unsustainable.  Under pressure from the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund the government has proposed a ‘second pillar’ which would be funded by compulsory contributions from both workers and employers. However employers’ associations say that any new obligations will undermine their ability to employ people and ‘the competitiveness of the Maltese economy’. Instead they suggest measures such as greater work flexibility, use of teleworking and state support for work/life balance to raise the very low employment rate, particularly of women. 56% of the total working age population are employed compared to an EU average of 64.2% while the figure for women is the lowest in the EU at 43.6%. Any second pension should be voluntary, they say, based on strictly regulated investments. The ForUM union confederation also criticised the mandatory nature of the government’s proposal in view of the economic crisis and inflation which were already eroding people’s purchasing power. With consensus on the need for reform but no agreement on the form that it should take it remains to be seen if the continued impetus from the EU will be enough to produce sustainable pensions in Malta.
UNSTINTING SUPPORT FOR MIGRANT WORKERS from Bosnia-Herzegovina has reaped rewards for the ZSSS trade union federation in Slovenia. For many years Bosnian workers had been singled out as being ineligible for unemployment benefit even though they were required to pay unemployment insurance when in work. This was due to an agreement between the two governments which stipulated that Bosnians must have a permanent residence permit, available only to those who had been in Slovenia for at least five continuous years, to claim the benefit. The unions pressed for an amendment, and criticised that proposed by the government, but even when an acceptable draft had been agreed the lack of a government in Bosnia delayed its implementation. Further pressure from ZSSS led the President of Bosnia to ratify it. The change is thought to affect over 20,000 workers although their numbers are in decline due to the effect of the slump on the construction sector in Slovenia.

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