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European Commission - Speech - [Check Against Delivery]

Commissioner Thyssen presents Commission's Social Package: First outline of the European Pillar of Social Rights and reform of the Posting of Workers Directive

Brussels, 8 March 2016

Today the College has adopted 2 ambitious social initiatives.

First of all, I am very glad to present to you a first concrete outline of the European Pillar of Social Rights. You know that President Juncker has announced this important initiative in his State of the Union address in September last year. And now it is beginning to take shape. This initiative is targeted at the euro area, while allowing other Member States to join in if they want to. Today, we start a broad public consultation on the Pillar. This will be the basis for a broad discussion all over Europe on the social values and rights in today's context. It is open to everyone: to social partners, Member States, civil society, the academia and, most importantly, to EU citizens.

The European social model and the social market economy we practice are a success story: the EU is today the largest economy and the largest single market in the world. At the same time European citizens generally enjoy very high living standards.

European values have materialised over time in a whole set of social rights, which are enshrined in national and European laws as well as in fundamental rights.

At the same time we need to screen whether the European social model is still fit for purpose. We are confronted with long term challenges like globalisation, ageing societies and changing work patterns. We are also still confronted with the aftermath of the crisis which has thrown too many families into extreme poverty, made it difficult for young people to realise their potential on the job market and has put our social security systems under severe strain.

It's time for a reality check. Are our European Union and our Member State's policies in social affairs in the broad sense of the word still up to date? Are they fit-for-purpose for the 21st century? How can we make the European social model future-proof? In short: How can we strive towards a better Europe for our children?

It is important to start this debate together in Europe. For Europe to be successful in the future and – equally important – to remain credible for European citizens, we need to further strengthen the social dimension of the European Union, and particularly for the euro area.

The European Pillar of Social Rights will serve as a compass for more convergence within the euro area. The Economic and Monetary Union needs to become stronger and more stable, both economically and socially. Economic growth and social progress need to go hand in hand.

This is one of the top priorities of this Commission. While this initiative will start within the euro area, other EU Member States can join if they want to.

The consultation will remain open until the end of this year. I am looking forward to all contributions and to an inspiring and lively debate during that time.


Today we are also presenting a legislative proposal on posting of workers. This proposal is an important step towards a deeper and fairer internal market and a truly European labour market. The aim is to promote cross-border service provision, while ensuring fair competition between companies across Europe and while strengthening the protection of posted workers.

The provision of services across borders is a cornerstone of the internal market. For this, companies must be able to post their workers to another Member State temporarily, to perform a particular service or task.

The number of posted workers has increased by almost 50% in the last 4 years, reaching almost two million in 2014.

Posting is organized through a Directive that dates back to 1996.

But since the adoption of that Directive, the labour market situation in Europe has changed. In particular, the divergences in wages among Member States have significantly increased. This has led to a situation where a tool that was intended to simply facilitate the provision of services across borders has become an instrument seen by many as enabling unfair competition. Too often have we seen two workers, side by side, doing the same job, but one earning much less than the other. This is not what a fair and European labour market should look like.

This is why we are proposing an update of the rules.

The main issue is that we want to ensure that local and posted workers are subject to the same rules on remuneration. Not just the minimum rates of pay should apply to posted workers, but all elements of remuneration that are mandatory in the host country. I think this is only fair.

The proposal does not interfere with Member States' competences or national specificities on wage setting. We simply propose that what applies to local workers, also applies to posted workers.

Furthermore, to improve clarity and legal certainty, we propose that workers posted for more than two years should be fully covered by the labour law of the host Member State.

And finally we propose that conditions applying to local temporary agency workers within a Member State, also apply to cross-border temporary agency workers.

These changes will bring fairer conditions for posted workers, more legal certainty and a level playing field for business across the EU.

They will deepen the Internal Market and make sure that within the Internal Market all workers are treated fairly.

You see once more today that this Commission is seriously committed to working towards a "social triple A" for Europe. We deliver proposals to address the concrete concerns of the people and we present a broad, holistic vision for a future-proof European social model.

Thank you.


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