The European Pillar of Social Rights – evolution and monitoring

From 23 to 26 September 2019 took place in Mamaia – Constanta / Romania a seminar about “The European Pillar of Social Rights – evolution and monitoring”, organized by CNS "Cartel Alfa" / F.N.CORESI (Confederaţia Naţională Sindicală "Cartel Alfa" / Fundaţia Naţională CORESI), with the support of EZA and of the European Union.

The seminar was attended by 42 representatives of workers’ organisations from Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Malta, France, Belgium, Italy and Serbia.

In the opening of the event, Mr. Bogdan Iuliu HOSSU, EZA Vice-President, stressed on the fact that EZA brings together 73 workers' organizations from 30 European countries that are based on Christian social values.

Within the event, the main topic of discussion was the European Pillar of Social Rights, a declaration signed on 17.11.2017 by all the 3 European institutions: Council of the European Union, European Commission and European Council. The European Pillar of Social Rights is structured on 3 major fields and establishes a set of 20 principles and rights that recreate the status of the European worker, social care, as well as elements related to the labor market, minimum wage, social policies, training and education. 

Today, it is necessary for the new structure of the Parliament and the Commission to focus on the European Pillar of Social Rights. From the point of view of the National Trade Union Confederation "Cartel ALFA" it is an important problem creating convergence between the Member States. In another train of thoughts, during the seminar it was emphasized that the states that were members of the European Union before Romania and Bulgaria adopted approx. 96% of ILO conventions, while our country, for example, has ratified only about 54% of them. 

The premises of ''social dumping'' are being created more and more in Romania and the pension law leads to it spreading even more as attempts are being made to copy the United States' laws in this field.  

The topics addressed during the seminar were: 

  • The future of work. The quality of jobs;
  • Particularities of disadvantaged groups on the labor market;
  • Fair migration and how we can avoid social dumping;
  • Labor market and migration from non-Euro countries;
  • Integrated social benefits and services. Social investments needed;
  • Pensions and active aging. National and European regulations;  Monitoring the indicators of the European Social Pillar;  The involvement of social partners and civil society.


The first topic of discussion was about the future of work, the quality of jobs and the first speaker, Mr. Eugen Bola, chief inspector of the Territorial Labor Inspectorate of Constanta opened the discussion by reminding that the Labor Code can be found in the legislation of all European member states and flexible labor contracts have the capacity to provide the employee and the employer with competitiveness and a balance between security and flexibility at the workplace. 

In 2002 telework was legislated at the level of the European Union; in Romania this topic was debated with unions and employers associations, and the law was adopted only in 2018. A similar situation is related to the Health and safety at work law 319/2006. 

At the level of Constanta county, in 2019, the Territorial Labor Inspectorate performed 80 checks on employers, following which 31 companies were sanctioned for undeclared work. The measures that were taken were: the correct payment of the salaries and their respective contributions as well as a fine. During the summer, there are over 7,000 Individual Employment Contracts in addition to the ones recorded during the other months of the year. This is due to seasonal work both in the HORECA and in agriculture.  

The discussion was continued by Mr. Pie Marie Leonard Bruno de Saint Chamas, the representative of France, who developped his speech on the importance of work today and the impact of digitalisation on work. First, the concept of work was defined from 3 different perspectives:  a) economic, which comprises 3 important components (the intention to work, the completion of a product/service and the usefulness of the work); b) social which is based on the interaction between several people and which has a subjective as well as an objective dimension (the work must be recognized by other people); and  c) collective(we do not work alone).

The lesser and lesser mentioned aspects relate to the meaning of work - the loss of the sense of our own usefulness and therefore of our dignity; and to the beauty of work - the concern for a 'well done' work.

Today's work can be found in different forms: domesticassociative (12 million volunteers in France, the equivalent of 1 million full-time workers), of collaboration (the form of work whose development has been facilitated by the internet), client activity (delegation of company activity to the client itself), paid work (11% independent activities, 89% employees). During the life, the person gets to provide on average 14% paid work and 86% free work, as during the active life we provide only 50% paid work, the remaining 50% being unpaid. The division of labor is now more necessary than ever, due in particular to automation/digitalization. No one challenges the fact that a robot can produce, however one should not forget that work belongs to man, and digitalization is an attack on human beings and their dignity.

The first panel was closed by Mrs. Eremia Cristina Luiza, a university lecturer, who emphasized that the future of work is determined by demographic changes, progress in the field of ICT and innovation, demand for superior skills on the labor market, climate change and globalization of work. It is directly related to young people, and the strategy of the European Union for youth aims to solve the problems they face by being based on skills, social inclusion and non-discrimination. Participation is an important component of the strategy. 

As for the work situation, Romania, Italy and Bulgaria are in a critical situation; the most important indicators to be followed are: equal opportunities; social protection; access to the labor market; school dropout; gender discrimination on the labor market; risk of poverty; social inclusion; and participation in active labor policies. In Romania over 30% of the students have problems at school and the integration of the Roma remains a challenge. 

However, there are some more encouraging news, namely the fact that discrimination on salary criteria in Romania recorded the smallest gap, 5% compared to the European Union where it is at 12%; and the fact our country has the best performance regarding growth of income per household. 

After the first 3 presentations there were a few minutes of questions, comments and remarks from the audience based on what was presented.

The second panel addressed particularities of disadvantaged groups on the labor market.

The specificities of access and activity of people with disabilities in the labor market are:

  • accessibility (we do not refer only to the adaptation of the actual work place, but also to the related conditions: adapted transport conditions, sanitary spaces or offices, adjacent spaces, etc.);
  • support and counseling (the employee with disability needs the support of the whole collective of which they are a part, especially regarding the acceptance of their character determined by conditions independent of their own will);
  • adaptability (adaptation from the point of view of the insertion of the job description for the occupied job as well as the time framework and physical space for the activity, depending on the character of the work performed, it can maximize the competitiveness and productivity of the employee).

Despite the fiscal facilities the state offers employers and the obligation of public institutions to hire persons with disabilities, the statistics are not at all encouraging.

As in the case of the first panel, the presentations were the result of a series of comments and remarks to what was presented.

The Fair migration and how we can avoid social dumping was the topic discussed by the MCL representative from Italy in the first part of the panel. The rate of population exposed to the risk of poverty or social exclusion decreased at the level of the European Union (from 23.8% in 2010 to 22.4% in 2017), however the objective of the EU 2020 Strategy, to release from the above mentioned risk situation a number of 20 million people, was not met. Moreover, the case of Italy is unfortunate considering that it is the country that even registered an increase from 25% in 2010 to 28.9% in 2017.

Despite the constant increase of the employment rate in the European Union (73.2%) and implicitly the constant decrease of the unemployment rate (from 10.9% in 2013 to 6.8% in

2018) there are some elements that favor the phenomenon called “social dumping”, namely: 

  • producers’ movement from high-cost countries to countries with lower tariffs where  there are minimum standards of health and protection for the work of the employee;
  • producers remain in the country at a higher cost but driven by a situation of greater freedom of choice, they could increase their bargaining power with the threat of moving to a state that has lower costs, replacing current personnel with low-paid workers; 
  • countries decide to implement policies focused on attracting capital (business friendly) influencing negatively the worker’s social status by lowering labor costs. With the aim of attracting capital, tax dumping is also becoming more frequent and it is achieved through the lowering of a country's tax burden and last but not least
  • actions carried out by the company in order to circumvent the existing legislation on cross-border posting, that is the worker’s temporary movement to another country.

The social dumping could be avoid and one of the ways would be to enforce 7 fundamental rights in all of the European Union member states:

1. Maximum work periods and minimum rest periods; 

2. Minimum duration of paid annual leave;

3. Minimum rates of pay;

4. Conditions of workers’ temporary transfer;

5. Safety, health and hygiene at work; 

  1.  Measures for the protection of working and employment conditions of children and young people; 
  2.  Equal treatment for men and women.

The discussion was continued on the benefits of the involvement of the European Union in the development of the skills of the students from the member countries by financing the internships programs, by promoting the student mobility and the study opportunities in other countries. 

The topic of labor mobility within the European Union was further elaborated by providing an overview of the situation through statistics saying that in 2017 there were 17 million EU28 movers and 12.4 million working age (20-64 years).

The main states hosting 74% of all movers are Germany, United Kingdom, Italy, France and Spain. The Romanian, Polish, Portuguese, Italian and Bulgarian nationals made up over 50% of EU-28 movers.

The phenomenon of "social dumping" is based on 4 main elements: inequality, lower living standards, political risks and exploitation and the saving solutions (Increased convergence, European minimum wage, Collective bargaining) would be summarized in 3 basic principles: decent prevention, proper control and effective sanctions. 

The last panel of the first working day referred to Labor market and migration from non-Euro countries. A deeper perspective of the migration phenomenon was given by mentioning some statistical data. 

According to them, 258 million international migrants existed at the level of 2017, representing 3.4% of the total population of the globe. The percentages by gender / age show that 48.8% were women, 51.2% men, 14% children and 86% adults.

The international migration in its complexity comprises migrant workers (about 150.3 million in 2015), unregulated migrants (2009 estimates reached 59 million), international students (their number is increasing, for example 2000 were 2 million people and in 2016 their number reached 4.8 million), refugees (25.4 million by 2017), people forcibly displaced for reasons related to persecution, conflict, widespread violence, human rights violations (68.5 million by the end of 2017), migration generated by climate change and natural disasters (18.8 million people from 135 countries until 2017), human trafficking - modern slavery (according to 2016 estimates - 25 million victims of forced labor) and migrant smuggling (2.5 million people).

Europe (2013) has hosted about 30% of the total international migrants, most (75%) being registered in 5 European states: Germany, Spain, France, England, Italy. Most residence permits have been issued to persons from the USA, Ukraine, China, India, Morocco, Russia, the Philippines, Turkey and Brazil.

Romania is still the first country in the European Union to be in the top of the net emigration ones with over 3.7 million people who left abroad for work or studies. Regarding immigration, the General Inspectorate for Immigration offers data according to which at the end of 2018 in Romania there were 120,358 immigrants (51,217 EU citizens and 69,141 third country nationals). The reasons for the arrival of immigrants in Romania are related to training (student 30%), family reunification (10%), finding a job (about 15%) and business (approx. 5%). At the end of 2018, there were approximately 2,532 refugees.

In 2019, approx. 40,000 foreign citizens officially work in Romania, most of them coming from Turkey, Vietnam, Italy, the Republic of Moldova or China. The figure has doubled in the last seven years, in 2012 being recorded 20,166 foreign workers and at least 21,000 workers of other nationality in 2013, according to data provided by the Labor Inspection.

The government announced at the beginning of September the approval to supplement with 10,000 people the quota per types of newly admitted workers on the Romanian labor market, the measure being taken following the repeated requests from the representatives of the business environment. In 2015 the quota share was of 4,200 and in 2018 there were 13,500 work permits. In 2018 compared to 2017, the percentage of issued work permits increased by 92% for non-EU permanent workers and by 262.5% for posted workers. At the beginning of 2019, the quota was set at 20,000 work permits.

In Malta, the number of non-standard or precarious jobs has increased. On the labor market in Malta, the trend of increasing the number of third-country nationals can be observed, the pace being quite rapid (in 2018 there were 12,407 registered citizens), as well as a significant presence of people from the European Union and the European Economic Area (30,564 people), representing about 20% of the total workforce.

Similar to other cases, in Malta, foreign citizens are perhaps the most vulnerable on the labor market for reasons related to language barriers and low ability to negotiate wages / working conditions. For this reason, they become somewhat "guilty" of lowering the wage level, the employers taking advantage of the fact that there is available labor force to make the compromise of accepting a lower salary level. 

It seems that the biggest challenge remains to find a balance between the rules of each country and the common objectives of the European Union, because until now it seems that the implementation of common policies (common fundamental values) has not been fully achieved.

Comments and remarks on what had been presented ended the first work day.

The second day of the seminar started with a discussion about Integrated social benefits and services. The European social legislative and non-legislative initiatives were presented in detail: the work-life balance, access to social protection, the Written Statement Directive, the Working Time Directive

The Labour Mobility Package was announced in the Commission’s 2015-2016 Work Programme. It aims to support labour mobility within the EU and coordinate social security systems to fight abuse.  It includes a review/creation of the Posting of Workers Directive; action to better coordinate social security systems and an enhanced European Network of Employment Services. 

In the changing world of work standard contracts are more and more being replaced with non-standard contracts. This has implications for an adequate social security coverage.  A ‘Council Recommendation on access to social protection for workers and the self-employed’ has been approved in 2018 and is waiting for formal acceptance in 2019 and implementation within 18 months in the Member States.

So far, the following have been realised: making stability and growth pact flexible, Saving Greece’s membership in euro area, reform of the posting of workers directive and the European labour authority, the end of roaming charges but some other aspects are pending (modern tax rules and reform of social security coordination).

It’s important to mention that no European progress is possible without a ‘coalition of the willing’ at national level.

During the seminar, the words of the incoming president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, were stressed upon, as she announced her 'action plan to bring our Pillar of Social Rights to life', through a minimum wage and unemployment benefit scheme, as well as a child guarantee and investment in education… European countries need a new welfare state, which invests in current and future generations before they need help!

These things can be achieved by: push for a radical transformation of welfare provisions into social investments; guarantee early, high-quality childhood care, which will maximise chances of children growing up healthy and knowledgeable and invest in education and training over the lifetime, which ensure young and adults can withstand ever-changing labour markets.

But what we must not forget and what the unions want to convey is that we need dialogue and action between policy makers, workers and citizens on the evolution of EU industrial & innovation & social policies!

The panel ends with questions, comments and remarks to what was presented.

The discussion on Pensions and active aging. National and European regulations is open with the list of challenges that we must face in relation to pensions and active aging. Both at European and national level, they are: Demographic changes, such as low birth rates, aging populations and increased life expectancy, the gender pension gap due to the long absence of women from the labor market because to maternity, the adequacy of pension benefits and the need for social security reform in order to tackle the phenomenon of informal employment and low pensions.

Despite the challenges facing the unions (Smooth Transition of older workers to new jobs and Develop new skills and Lifelong learning programs), colleagues in Cyprus have some concrete proposals for active aging: 

  • The development of computer-based learning and digital skills training by the Cyprus Productivity Center.
  • The creation of a dedicated department to provide consulting on public employment services.
  • Providing additional retirement motives to extend the working life of people over 65.
  • The modernization of the law on the functioning of retirement homes that will provide education and creative activities.
  • The utilization of old people in training programs and workshops according to their knowledge and education.

Of course, the critical aspects that need to be negotiated are recognized as well: working time arrangements, improving working conditions, ongoing training (e.g. through cost sharing between employees and employers), new forms of work organization (e.g. part-time or seasonal work, new shift workload distribution, job placement tailored to the needs of older people), the remuneration system (performance-oriented systems orientation), access to the benefits of occupational insurance systems and protecting older workers in the event of collective redundancies in the context of restructuring.

In addition to what has already been said by the representative of Cyprus, some other essential needs are mentioned such as carrying out awareness campaigns on the importance of a lifelong learning capacity in the context of the future of work and of active aging; developing the capacity of EU Member States to gather, analyze and interpret statistical data on labor market trends, employment rate of older workers, difference in skills of workers, as well as other changes in society, strengthening the role of NGO's in supporting adult learning programs and their partnerships with governments to implement large-scale educational initiatives for the elderly; prohibiting by law the dismissal of workers aged 55 +; conducting research to establish whether the low employment rate in the elderly is an effect of discrimination on the labor market; etc.

The penultimate panel on “Monitoring the indicators of the European Social Pillar” presented the indicators and their achievement status in EU member countries. It was shown that the situation did not look good in some cases and a more active involvement of governments and social partners was needed. Particular emphasis was placed on the subject of active aging.

The idea that public policies should be promoted in favor of older workers, namely:

  • Maintaining the state of health throughout the entire professional life
  • Extension of active life after the legal retirement age
  • A system of continuous professional training that allows to maintain the professional competences and abilities in parallel with the technological advancement
  • Tax facilities to stimulate the extension of active life.

The topic "Involvement of social partners and civil society" had two cases as example: Romania and Serbia. 

The representative of the unions from Serbia gave an overview of the economic and social situation at the country level and emphasized when and where the unions get involved: 

Institutions and other forms:

  • Social and economic council (influence on legislation and policies)
  • National convent on eu
  • Collective bargaining
  • Minimum wage negotiations


  • Lack of the political will for effective social dialogue
  • Lack of timely and efective tripartite consultations about new laws
  • Weak employers’ association
  • Lack of sectorial collective agrements in private sector
  • Increase of anti-union activities

Social dialogue represents both a requirement and a need for solving the problems that the Romanian society is facing. Starting from these premises, all the organizations involved must collaborate to create the functioning framework of the dialogue and partnership. The efficiency of everyone's participation and involvement depends on the qualities and skills of the human resources that represent them in the structures of social dialogue. 

The Social Dialogue is part of the European Social Model because: "it reflects the democratic principle according to which representative associations must be able to express their views, be consulted and engage in dialogue with public authorities, and workers and employers must be involved in making decisions on issues that affect them closely."

The Tripartite dialogue is understood as a democratic decision-making process.

Two possible advantages are recognized in this approach to dialogue: 

 democratization of the process for drafting economic and social policies,

 reduction of social conflicts.

Social dialogue, both in its tripartite and bipartite form, follows a practical, collaborative model to develop a common understanding of problems, to find a compromise and a common response. As a means of pursuing consensus and reducing conflict, Social Dialogue is a valuable tool especially during an economic crisis or during transition periods.

The participants identified several future actions: 

  1. We need a common approach in the European Parliament's Committee on Employment. 
  2. The various instances of social governance must be accompanied by specific debates in the member states, as well as at European level. We need an active involvement towards the creation of a tripartite mechanism that will enable us to reach a consensus. 
  3. Identification of a solid foundation for the European Pillar of Social Rights that would eliminate disparities and provide real social protection.
  4. Trade unions and NGOs’ action plan to build support by the national government to monitoring the Social Pillar and the promoting package of European legislative initiatives to enforce the 20 principles and rights.
  5. Amendment of social dialogue law in order to allow and restore genuine social dialogue collective bargaining at all levels, and to ensure trade union rights to all nonstandard workers, in order to enjoy the same benefits as standard workers.
  6. Exchange of experience with foreign trade union organisations, NGOs and universities;
  7. Promoting measures for active aging population, access to health care and essential services;
  8. Joint action to fix the social problems facing Romanian working people and their unions including rising inequalities, low wages, precarious jobs and poor working conditions that undermine their ability to benefit from EU employment rights.