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ISSUE 74 page 3

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Civil Service partners re-ignite EU social dialogue
 THE PROCESS OF SOCIAL DIALOGUE was thought of as a lynchpin of industrial relations and even a source of legislation in the European Union. Since the onset of the financial crisis it has fallen into disrepair even when, as in the case of the 2012 social partner agreement on health and safety for hairdressers (see issue 64), employers and unions are at one. The failure of the European Commission to transpose this into a directive and. therefore, binding law, seemed to point to the end of the line for social partnership. However the current President of the Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, announced a ‘new start’ for social dialogue at the start of his mandate. His first test could be the new deal on Information and Consultation in the Central Adminstration sector. Known as civil servants in the U.K., these workers were excluded from the general duty of the employer to consult trade union reps. on restructuring, work life balance, working time and occupational health and safety. The EU Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee was set up in 2010 (see issue 58) to bring together the Trade Union National and European Administration Delegation (TUNED)
CivServSign
and the European Public Administration Employers for Central Government Administrations (EUPAE) with the aim of improving working conditions and raising standards. The agreement is the fruit of ten months of negotiation. As well as removing the exemption from the existing EU directive it allows Member States to uphold higher standards and to negotiate with national unions on pay, training, gender equality and non-discrimination measures. As it stands the deal can be enforced solely by the social partners and only in the eleven countries whose governments signed. To make it legally binding across the EU the Commission must propose a directive based on the text and it must be approved by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. TUNED spokesperson Britta Lejon said ‘We trust the European Commission will transpose the agreement into a Directive as quickly as possible’ while French Civil Service Minister Marylise Lebranchu commented ‘an effective social dialogue is vital for economic growth, quality labour relations, quality and efficiency of work and of public services’.

Britta Lejon (unions) and Marylise Lebranchu (employers) at the signing

 

 

Tax loopholes narrowing as EU pursues multi-nationals, proposes new anti-avoidance package
THE DAYS OF THE ‘DOUBLE-IRISH’ AND THE ‘DUTCH SANDWICH’ may be rapidly fading but the European Commission has not yet called a truce in its war with tax-avoiding multi-national companies. At regular intervals recently we have covered new proposals and directives and, if taking aim at Apple, Google, McDonald’s and Starbucks provoked charges of anti-Americanism the demand that Belgium claw back €700 million in unpaid dues from the likes of Belgacom, Atlas Copco, BASF and InBev has reconciled the transatlantic ledger. These companies are thought to be some of the biggest losers in a ruling by Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager that the country’s ‘excess profit’ tax scheme is illegal under EU state aid regulations. The scheme assumed that international companies would make more profit than local ones due to ‘synergies and economies of scale‘ and that they would pay tax on the extra in another country; in reality over thirty-five firms, most of them European, paid nothing. Together with inquiries into Google’s relations with the U.K. and Italian tax authorities and an accusation that Luxembourg helped McDonald’s to swerve any payment on hundreds of millions of euros in profit, the Commission continues to put itself at the head of citizen outrage over the unshared burden of cuts and tax rises to bail out busted banks. In the case of the hamburger chain, unions and anti-poverty groups estimate that the worldwide loss of revenue amounted to €1 billion between 2009 and 2013. ‘For too long, McDonald’s has stashed billions in tax havens and ducked contributing to state coffers while simultaneously imposing poverty wages on its workers’ said Scott Courtney of the Service Employees International Union. The latest addition to the portfolio of anti-tax avoidance laws are legally binding measures to stop multi-nationals shifting profits to subsidiaries in Member States where taxes are lower or to apparently lower them through internal loans to sister companies. If a firm moved assets such as patents and intellectual property they would have to pay an ‘exit tax’. ‘Companies must pay their fair share of taxes, where their actual economic activity is taking place’ said Commissioner for the Euro Dombrovskis. It is estimated that corporate tax dodging costs €70 billion annually across the EU and that multinationals end up paying about 30% less than their domestic rivals. As the proposals are based on guidelines from the Organisation of Economic Development (OECD) the Commisssion hopes that non-EU countries will enact similar laws and not undercut the new regime in Europe. In parallel, the EU would develop a blacklist and sanction tax havens that refuse to abide by international standards: ‘We should not be afraid to name and shame’ said Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs. Assuming that the new tax avoidance proposals and the previously announced information-sharing directive (see issue 73) are passed the pressure will then be on the national governments to follow EU recommendations on tax treaties. Sven Giegold, a German Green MEP believes ‘Member states now face a test on whether they are serious to fight corporate tax avoidance’.




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