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ISSUE 64 page 3

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New EU health and safety policy blocked in unprecedented de-regulation drive
 EUROPEAN TRADE UNIONS, ALREADY CRITICAL OF THE DELAY in setting out a new EU health and safety policy exacerbated by a consultation exercise (see our last issue) are appalled by the recent announcement by the European Commission  that there will be no new framework until after the European elections in 2014. Not only that, but individual measures such as the Tobacco directive and the social dialogue agreement on the hairdressing sector, currently blocked as a result of UK government action, will be delayed until a new Commission takes office next autumn. Even worse, a recently published Communication on ‘Regulatory Fitness and Performance’, or REFIT, threatens a review of established legislation such as on part-time and temporary agency work, fixed-term contracts and information and consultation. The reviews are unlikely to be favourable for workers as the stated aims are to reduce the alleged administrative and financial burden of the laws on small businesses (SMEs). The decision on the hairdressing agreement is particularly dangerous as
this is the first time that  a deal between employers and unions at European level has beenprevented from becoming law. A directive would have ensured better information on the hundreds of chemicals used in the industry was given to workers who suffer from a high incidence of skin diseases (see issue 53). The ramifications of the refusal go further according to Walter Roethig of the uinon federation UNI-Europa: ‘It is an attack on the health of workers, an attack on the role for the social partners as foreseen by the EU Treaty. It is ideologically driven and aims at placating Euro-sceptics in some European countries’, he commented. The ETUC was ‘appalled at the current lack of initiatives to establish or strengthen a level playing field for workers’ protection’ with General Secretary Bernadette Ségol adding ‘The internal market is only acceptable if implemented with strong social rules. The Commission’s refit programme is blocking all progress in that direction’.

Information on the effects of smoking and chemicals will be blocked by EU deregulation drive



New Swiss referenda to follow after bonus victory
SwissDemoFOLLOWING THE SUCCESSFUL REFERENDUM restricting bonuses for top managers in Switzerland (see issue 62) trade unions, left-wing parties and the Greens are sponsoring two new ‘People’s Initiatives’. The first would limit the highest salary paid in an organisation to twelve times the lowest and the second would institute a legal minimum wage. According to the unions the 1-to-12 rule would make no difference to the vast majority of Swiss companies, only a few hundred export-orientated firms and the bosses of newly-privatised state enterprises, such as the railways and the post office, would be affected. The minimum wage would be set at SFr.22 (about £15) per hour which is 61% of the median salary in Switzerland.
Most political parties are opposed to both propositions but that was also true of the bonuses proposal, known as the ‘Minder’ intitiative which was passed with 68% of voters in favour.  According to the Swiss constitution a nationwide referendum must be held on any initiative which has attracted 100,000 signatures and, if passed, the proposal put into law. The government argues that a national minimum wage would lose jobs and that the present system of collective barganing is the best way to help workers on low wages. However trade unions point to the fact that collective agreements currently cover only about 50% of the labour market and often do not even mention minimum rates. ‘Minimum wages are the best way to put an end to this injustice’ said Paul Rechsteiner, president of the Trade Union Federation as he handed over the 100,000 signatures. Later he led a demonstration outside the parliament building to encourage ‘Yes’ votes and to protest against public spending and pension reductions as well as the general growth of inequality in Switzerland.

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