Responding today to the European Commission’s proposal for a Directive on Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions, Esther Lynch, ETUC Confederal Secretary, welcomed some important improvements, although this reform is not the game-changer unions needed or expected.
"Many of the provisions in this new measure, replacing the Written Statement Directive, represent a significant improvement. For example, all workers will be entitled to a written statement from the first day of employment. This means seasonal agriculture, domestic, on-demand, intermittent, voucher-based and platform workers will be effectively covered. And the Directive goes further in proposing very helpful provisions to ensure that online platforms are held accountable as employers.
"It also takes important steps towards ending unfair terms in contracts, such as charging workers for training to do the job, long prohibition periods and preventing workers from working elsewhere. But to be effective these provisions need amendment, to withstand the type of tactics we can expect unscrupulous employers to use to remove these new rights.
"We are pleased that the proposal requires Member States to protect trade union workplace reps who represent workers who seek their rights under this Directive and it includes measures to specifically protect workers on flexible contracts from having their hours cut back. Recognising the important role of collective bargaining, the Directive permits some modifications by means of collective agreements, but the wording on this is confusing and inconsistent and we will be seeking a number of amendments to protect against unintended consequences.
"But where the Directive really falls down is on the promise to address the worse forms of precariousness. A ‘right to request a more secure and predictable form of work' is not really a meaningful right for the many workers trapped in precarious and zero-hour type contracts. The Directive only requires employers to respond to such requests in writing, and this is totally inadequate. Much stronger provisions are needed if workers are to have a realistic route to securing a higher number of guaranteed paid hours or a less variable work schedule. Disappointingly, the Commission has not brought forward any effective remedies to deal with abusive flexibility, such as workers being promised a day of work but then sent home without pay an hour or two into the shift.
"Self-employed workers and freelancers are left out in the cold and the expected guarantee of equal pay for equal work for all non-standard workers is missing. Unless this is addressed it creates a major loophole that has the potential to undermine the upcoming initiative on access to social protection."