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Legally binding social progress clause required in existing EU treaties


21 Oct 2008


Social Europe & Jobs

"Workers across Europe have a right to decent work, to equality. They have a right to organise, agitate, and campaign to improve their lot at work. They have a rightful expectation that the law should recognise and vindicate these rights", said Irish GUE/NGL MEP Mary Lou McDonald during a debate in the European Parliament this morning.

She was speaking on the Anderson report, a Parliamentary report which looks at the challenges to collective agreements in the EU in the wake of a series of European Court of Justice rulings on labour law.  "These rulings, said MEP McDonald "represent an audacious attack on these basic rights. They have given the green light to the wholesale exploitation of workers. They are a reflection of the legal staus quo, a reflection of the fact that when workers' rights collide with rules of competion, the rule of competition prevails."

MEP McDonald expressed disappointment at the report which she said avoided calling for the changes to the EU Treaties. The call for treaty change was "deliberately and cynically" removed from the first draft, despite overwhelming calls from the Trade Union movement across Europe for a Social Progress Clause to be inserted in the Treaties, she explained.

"The vulnerability of workers' rights was one of the main reasons for the Irish vote against the Lisbon Treaty. If any new Treaty is to be acceptable then it must ensure adequate protection for workers." she said.

"We now have an opportunity to insist that the Treaties include a binding Social Progress Clause or Protocol.  If the amendments to this effect do not pass today, the European Parliament will have taken another step away from the people we purport to represent will have let them down," she concluded.

"Trust in binding social legislation in the EU can only be achieved if fundamental social rights are defined as primary law," said German GUE/NGL MEP Gabi Zimmer. "The judgements referred to in this report give priority to the single market freedoms and I regret that we do not send a stronger signal to the Council, the Commission, the ECJ and the Member States and that we only demand a balance between fundamental rights and these freedoms."

"Basic social rights are human rights," said MEP Zimmer. "How do we, as Members of Parliament, accept that these human rights are restricted by the freedoms accorded to the EU internal market?" she asked.

"We are talking here about the defence and improvement of the European Social Model so it is high time to implement a legally binding social progress clause in the existing treaties of the EU," MEP Zimmer concluded.

Gianfranco Battistini +32 475 64 66 28
Gay Kavanagh +32  473 842 320