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EU electricity training deal aimed at young people
THE SOCIAL PARTNERS IN THE ELECTRICITY industry have signed an EU-level agreement on traineeships with the intention of attracting young people to jobs in the sector. In 2013 there were 5.5 million people between 15 and 24 years old who were unemployed in the European Union. The EPSU and IndustriALL trade union federations and the eurelectric employers’ group want ‘future young workers to find the European electricity industry a safe and pleasant place to work in, offering a great standard and qualified learning’. This is in accordance with the Council of Ministers recommendation ‘A Quality Framework for Traineeships’ which underlines the importance of high quality particularly in attracting NEETs, those youngsters not in employment, education or training. The signatories to the new deal agree and see traineeships as a good way to ‘practical and professional experience with a view to improving employability and facilitating transition to regular employment’. Thus both the trainee and the employer gain from ‘direct productivity benefits, improved labour market matching [and] mobility’. Although the agreement is non-binding, and cannot become a directive under the social partner procedure, the Member State affiliates on both the union and employer sides will discuss how to implement it according to national regulations. There will also be company-level negotiations. Both sides are at pains to prevent precarious work, to pay collectively bargained pay rates, to limit working hours and to provide health and safety information. During the six months duration of the trainees ship the trainee will have a trained supervisor and/or mentor and must receive ‘solid and meaningful learning content’. The text of the agreement specifically states ‘The intention is not to replace workers by employing trainees for unskilled tasks’. They must also have a written traineeship agreement, health and accident insurance and a relevant certificate listing the skills that they have acquired. The social partners promise to facilitate the transfer of trainees to another Member State if required for extra experience ‘by reducing administrative formalities’. The agreement will last for three years and then the results will be evaluated.

Recent rulings from the European Courts

Work head-scarf ban can be justified
German minimum wage loophole must close
The Advocate General of the European Court of Justice has ruled that the dismissal by G4S of a receptionist working for its Belgian subsidiary because she wore an Islamic head-scarf did not contravene the EU Equal Treatment Directive. Ms. Achbita, a Muslim woman who had worked at the company for over three years, announced in April 2006 that she would henceforward wear a head-scarf at work. The company, which held that it had an ‘unwritten’ rule forbidding the wearing of ‘religious, political or philosophical symbols while on duty’ dismissed her in June of the same year. The next day it added a written rule to that effect. In giving her opinion on Ms.Achbita’s discrimination claim Julianne Kokott said that as long as the rule was ‘proportionate’ and no particular belief or religion was singled out the ban could be justified as pursuing a policy of neutrality.
A case from Germany’s Federal Labour Court has exposed the sloppy drafting of the country’s minimum wage law which came into effect last year. A hospital employee was being paid €8.03 per hour, well below the minimum rate of €8.50. However by adding in her holiday money and Christmas bonus the employer, a hospital service company, calculated the rate at €8.69. Her lawyer, Simon Daniel, said that the whole point of the new law was to fight poverty and his client had been left with a salary of €1,507 per month before tax. The judge did not agree and argued that, as the practice had been agreed with employee representatives, it was valid to use the total yearly income in the calculation. Several million workers on the minimum wage in Germany are likely to be affected by the judgement. Heike Werner, the regional labour minister, from the Left Party, called for an amendment as ’the government was not careful enough in how it wrote the law’.

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