In 2014, a new term for the European Parliament and the European Commission meant an opportunity to change course by building a different economic and social Europe – one that puts the backbone of its development at its core: Europe’s workers and employees.

Core labour rights and decent working conditions – once held high – had been undermined and under constant pressure and threats. Relentless drives for more competitiveness of companies and firms had lead to working conditions and pay deteriorating, with social protection coming under severe strain.

It was clear that ‘Securing a genuine social union’ for workers and employees had to be a central theme of CESI’s 2014 EU election manifesto. CESI warned that Europe should finally take sufficient notice of the social impacts and the human factors in its policies, and called for social and labour market developments to lead economic policy direction – and note the other way round. CESI also underlined the importance of ensuring a full respect of fundamental rights granted to European workers and employees under the EU’s Charter.

Since summer 2014, what has been achieved?

Towards the beginning of its mandate, little significant legislation came out of the European Commission, leading to the European Parliament’s Employment & Social Affairs Committee keeping itself busy almost exclusively with own-initiative reports. Under the so-called Refit and Better Regulation Agenda, and encouraged by a Council of Ministers in which certain national delegations continued to block new social and employment legislation, the European Commission even scrapped some legislative proposals already on the table, such as on a new Maternity Leave Proposal which would have given thousands of young mothers better protection.

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A lot remains to be done before 2019

The European Commission put its cards on the table with their poropsal for the European Pillar for Social Rights, and what has been tabled can yield a more social Europe. However, this does not mean that work has finished. It is too early to judge the social legacy of this term. The European Parliament and national ministers in the Council need to agree on quality legislative texts on the proposals submitted by the European Commission. The national governments in Europe’s capitals need to take ownership of the objectives of the Pillar of Social Rights and make policies to achieve them. And the European Commission needs to keep the pressure high on these governments. In fact, it up to all actors, governments, authorities, social partners and civil society organisations to seize the Pillar politically, administratively and legally and help put it into practice.

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Standout MEPS

Maria João Rodrigues
Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats

Elected into the European Parliament in 2014, Maria João Rodrigues has been a front-runner in the European Parliament for better working and living conditions in Europe. As rapporteur of the Parliament’s report on the European Pillar of Social Rights, her ideas contributed to inspire the final shape of the Pillar – even if some of her vision laid out in her draft committee report got watered down during negotiations with more conservative MEPs. If it had been up to Ms Rodrigues, the Pillar would have received more teeth, including new financial means to work towards the objectives of the Pillar.