Today [17th July 2020], CEEP took part in the informal meeting of employment and social affairs ministers (EPSCO) organised by the German Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Held via videoconference, the meeting was hosted from Berlin by Hubertus Heil, Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs of Germany, and also featured the participation of Nicolas Schmit, Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, the 27 ministers of employment and social affairs, and the prominent economist Mariana Mazzucato.

Addressing the plenary session on “The Social Dimension of Europe’s Recovery”, Valeria Ronzitti, CEEP General Secretary, said:

“There is a growing understanding about the business case for a stronger role of the public sector in ensuring an inclusive and sustainable growth. Public services are not only there to intervene in case of market failure.”

“The structural vulnerabilities highlighted by the pandemic are the result of years of under-investment in essential services. The recovery must be built on a new paradigm, recognising that investing in SGIs is the condition to efficiently combine sustainable economic growth and social welfare. This should be one of the main lessons from the COVID-19 crisis.”

“CEEP calls for stronger links between Employment and Finance Ministers at national and EU level when discussing the National Recovery Plans. Social partners are also an essential part of the equation to guarantee that those Recovery Plans are genuine “resilience plans” with a strong growth and job creation component, opposed to short-term “survival” and financial rescue plans.”

Today [1st July 2020], the European Commission has adopted its renewed European Skills Agenda, a proposal for a Council Recommendation on vocational education and training (VET) and a Youth Employment Support package including a proposal for a reinforced youth guarantee.

The proposed initiatives aim at stepping up the skills dimension by preparing young people for an increasingly digital and green world of work and to unlock public and private investment in educational and vocational training.

Following the publication of the packages, Valeria Ronzitti, CEEP General Secretary, said:

“Whilst the EU needs to address the fallout of the COVID-19 crisis and prepare for the green and digital twin transition, CEEP welcomes this set of proposals which keeps the long-term perspective in mind. The proposed Skills agenda for Europe should now be fully implemented and properly connected to the other initiatives such as the EU Green Deal, the digital industrial strategy and the action plan for the Pillar of social rights.”

“With its focus on “Strengthening skills intelligence”, the European Commission rightly provides pathways to address skills mismatch and shortages. The existing articulations between labour market and education and training programmes are insufficient at the moment. Developing a common understanding of future skills needs should support employers of public services and of services of general interest to address the shortages experienced in essential utilities such as transport, waste management, water, energy or housing.”

“CEEP welcomes the steps which are taken today by the EU to guarantee structural funds and to establish pan-European initiatives and programmes focused on equipping citizens with the skills they need. We call for Member States to make the best use of the EU funding to implement new youth employment support programmes and to equip everyone – especially the most vulnerable – for the jobs of tomorrow.”

Ahead of the publication of this package, CEEP and its sectoral member EFEE (European Federation of Education Employers) have been consulted by the European Commission, providing the following input.

Today [23 June 2020], Rainer Plassmann, CEEP President, and Valeria Ronzitti, General Secretary, represented CEEP at the Tripartite Social Summit organised via videoconference by the Croatian Presidency of the EU. In presence of Andrej Plenković, Croatian Prime Minister, Charles Michel, President of the European Council, and Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, Mr Plassmann and Mrs Ronzitti addressed the consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak on the activities of employers of public services and of services of general interest.

During the opening roundtable, President Rainer Plassmann said:

“While lockdown measures largely paralysed our single market, public services and services of general interest remained operational. The provision of water, energy, waste management, telecommunications, education, housing, transport and administration services has never been structurally questioned. However, years of underinvestment have led healthcare services in many Member States to struggle to cope with the crisis.”

“CEEP is convinced that the EU institutions should now shepherd us out of the crisis. We fully support the Next Generation EU and the revised MFF as the right tools. The EU answer must rely on both strategic investment to promote upward convergence and foster a resilient social market economy, as well as additional resources channeled towards healthcare, just transition and digital infrastructures, targeting all social and physical infrastructures. The provision of funding must be combined with ambitious targets to make an economically strong, green and digitally best-equipped EU.”

Taking the floor during the opening discussion, General Secretary Valeria Ronzitti said:

“Today is the UN Public Service Day, and it is a wise moment to take in the first lessons from the COVID-19 crisis. First, we must consider EU recommendations on minimum standards in times of crisis in vital sectors, such as SGIs, the healthcare sector or essential services and products. Also, we believe that EU procedures must be put in place in case internal borders have to be closed again, and avoid endangering the achievements of our Internal Market.”

Today, the European Social Partners Framework Agreement on Digitalisation was signed by BusinessEurope, ETUC, CEEP and SMEunited to support the successful digital transformation of Europe’s economy and to manage its large implications for labour markets, the world of work and society at large.

The agreement supports the successful integration of digital technologies at the workplace, investment in digital skills, skills updating and the continuous employability of the workforce. The agreement enables employers and unions to introduce digital transformation strategies in partnership in a human oriented approach at national, sectoral, company and workplace levels, including on the modalities of connecting and disconnecting and respect of working time rules and appropriate measures to ensure compliance.

See the agreement here.
BusinessEurope Director General Markus J. Beyrer said:

“This agreement paves the way for a consensual digital transition of our economies and for more resilience of our enterprises. The relevance of this agreement becomes clear at a time when many workers need to use digital technologies to work distantly. Investment in digital skills is particularly important for Europe’s future. It is now up to the national social partners to implement this agreement at the national level. The European Commission should respect the autonomy of the EU Social Partners.”

ETUC General Secretary Luca Visentini said:

“Unions and employers at European level have signed an agreement that says digital change should not be imposed by management but managed in partnership with workers and their trade unions. It supports negotiations between unions and employers in each EU country, in different sectors, companies and workplaces.”

CEEP General Secretary Valeria Ronzitti said:

“This framework agreement addresses an issue which will be on the agenda of social partners for decades, and should become the basis for joint activities to adapt to the fast-paced evolution brought by digitalisation. Public services and SGI employers need to keep on delivering high-quality essential services no matter the circumstances. Digitalisation should help to achieve this crucial mission. This agreement also sets out a joint process that can be tailored to different industrial relations systems and national, local, sectoral and enterprise situations, while offering a model for social partners to anticipate, discuss, negotiate and monitor concrete solutions to the many impacts of digitalisation.”

SMEunited Secretary General Véronique Willems said:

“We concluded the agreement on digitalisation just ahead of a time spurring the use of digital tools during the COVID-19 crisis. Our joint dynamic approach covers all the core areas of social partners’ competence, such as training, health and safety, connecting and disconnecting. The recognition of the direct relationship between employers and workers in small businesses and SMEs specificities should facilitate a smooth introduction and continuous adaptation of digital technologies in SMEs and the necessary dialogue for the benefits of both sides.”

Today [8 June 2020], Valdis Dombrovskis, European Commission Executive Vice-President for an Economy that Works for People, and Nicolas Schmit, Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, organised a hearing with the EU social partners on the upcoming Action Plan on the EU Pillar of Social Rights.

Speaking on behalf of CEEP in the opening roundtable, Valeria Ronzitti, General Secretary, said:

“CEEP strongly supports the objective of building a resilient, sustainable and fair Union, while fostering upward convergence. In order for the Action Plan on the Pillar of Social Rights to reach that objective, its principle 8 on social dialogue needs to be further developed to ensure that national, regional and local social partners have full ownership of initiatives taken. The Pillar should be less about new EU legislation, but more about fostering national ownership and implementation of its principles via the European Semester.”

“This consultation, and the upcoming ones on the priorities for the Action Plan, are very timely as they will allow to operationalise the principles in a way that fully takes into account the COVID-19 outbreak and its economic and social consequences. For our members, this should translate into full and effective implementation of the principle on access to services: that would be the only way to create coherence between the Action Plan, the revised MFF and the Next Generation EU which identify essential services such as long term care, healthcare and housing as matters of priority for the social dimension.”

“An integrated approach is needed, with policy coherence to mainstream those investments through all stages of the recovery. For this to happen, the Action Plan must be connected to the future national recovery plans to be drafted by Member States in the context of the new Recovery and Resilience Facility. SGIs employers and providers stand ready to support European and national institutions in prioritising those investment needs.”

At this hearing, CEEP delegation included members from the Swedish Association of Local and Regional Authorities (SALAR), the Bulgarian Industrial Capital Association (BICA), the German Vereinigung der kommunalen Arbeitgeberverbände (VKA), the French Union Social pour l’Habitat (USH), the European Federation of Education Employers (EFEE) and the European Healthcare and Hospitals’ Employers Association (HOSPEEM).

This afternoon [27 May 2020], European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen presented the European Commission’s proposals for the EU recovery, relying on the Next Generation EU instrument, a proposal for an updated Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 and an adapted Commission Work Programme for 2020.

Following the presentation of those long-awaited proposals, CEEP General Secretary Valeria Ronzitti said:

“CEEP welcomes the intent of the European Commission to put forward a proposal for an EU recovery aimed at balancing burden-sharing, solidarity and sovereignty across the EU. The EU institutions must now agree on a recovery strategy fixing the damages caused by the COVID-19 outbreak while preparing for the future.”

“With our members, we will now proceed to a careful analysis of the proposals for the Next Generation EU instrument. We must now find the right balance between grants and loans, short and long-term perspectives and, first and foremost, address the most urgent priorities.”

“CEEP supports the highlighted priorities for building a forward-looking EU model. The green and digital twin transitions must be the engine of the new EU growth strategy embracing a resource-efficient, sustainable and resilient infrastructure. Central in providing the direct response to the COVID-19 outbreak, our members, representing employers and providers of services of general interest at the frontline of the crisis, should be placed at the very heart of the recovery and the future of the EU project.”

CEEP General Secretary Valeria Ronzitti signed an opinion piece for the magazine “Our World – Struck by the Pandemic” edition:

Public Services and Services of General Interest on the Frontline Against COVID-19

Other contributors to the this edition of the magazine include, amongst others, Stella Kyriakides, European Commissioner for Health, António Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, Margaritis Schinas, Vice President of The European Commission for Promoting Our European Way of Life or Gianni Pittella, Member of the Italian Senate, Former Vice President of the European Parliament & former Leader of the S&D Group in the European Parliament. You can consult the full edition here.

Today [5th May 2020], Valeria Ronzitti, CEEP General Secretary, attended the informal meeting of employment and social policy ministers, organised by the Croatian Presidency of the EU and held online for the first time.

Addressing the “Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on European societies: demographic challenges and measures for economic recovery and social security”, the meeting brought together EU social partners and employment and social policy ministers of the 27, with a focus on the consequences of COVID-19 on labour markets and the economy and the measures to alleviate those.

Representing employers and providers of services of general interest, CEEP General Secretary Valeria Ronzitti said:

Appropriate investment into social infrastructure is indispensable to manage the demographic transition. The pandemic is now exposing the product of decades of underinvestment in our social infrastructure. We must learn from this experience and mobilize unprecedented efforts to close this investment gap.”

CEEP supports the call to EPSCO ministers issued by the European Commission to protect and invest in social services and social infrastructures: they are the ones ensuring the delivery of essential services to the vulnerable sectors of the population, including the most exposed to the impacts of the COVID-19. This momentum requires a new policy mix to be put forward, which must be able to not only promote the recovery, but to efficiently address our long-term structural challenges.”

CEEP also calls for the EU and the Member States to make full use of social dialogue, which has a proven track-record of generating effective, practical, and equitable solutions to the type of challenges now confronting the world of work. At EU level, social partners have been working actively and collectively with the institutions to face the crisis and intend to continue this work throughout the next phases, in which we should be consulted as the ones who can efficiently deliver.”

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