2007 Reply to Green paper"Modernising labour law to meet the challenges of the 21st century"

Ceemet welcomes the launch of a debate on the modernisation of labour law to meet the challenges of the 21st century. According to the Commission, the Green Paper “looks at the role labour law might play in advancing a “flexicurity” agenda”. Labour law has traditionally been aimed at protecting employees and, in general, contributes to considerable “security” of employment. Reading the Green Paper, Ceemet has the impression that the broad concept of “flexicurity” is still overemphasizing “security”-related aspects to the detriment of the “flexibility” approach.

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Ceemet key messages

  1. Ceemet welcomes the launch of a debate on “Modernising Labour Law to meet the Challenges of the 21st Century”. In Ceemet’s view, the modernisation of labour law is in the first instance the competence of Member States. Labour law is a vital part of the framework determining the environment in which companies operate. Ceemet members are convinced that more flexibility in this area is one of the preconditions for improving competitiveness. Safeguarding and promoting flexibility within labour markets is essential for a competitive European manufacturing industry. Whereas the analytical part of the Green Paper contains several important and helpful statements, Ceemet has the feeling that some of the questions in the Green Paper overemphasize aspects that are related to “security”.
  2. Ceemet is of the opinion that a well balanced approach to “flexicurity” will result in an environment that provides many opportunities to adapt the different national systems to current and future challenges.In particular, Ceemet stresses the importance of the so-called “non-standard” employment contracts which have become an increasingly common pattern as they meet the needs of both companies and employees. For example, temporary agency work is a regular type of employment in the labour market suiting the needs of both companies and individuals with adequate national legislation or collective agreements.
  3. No “harmonization” of labour law at the EU level is needed. Consequently, we do not see a need for a harmonised definition of “employment” and “self-employment” at EU level which would also have a serious impact on national labour laws and social security systems.A more convergent definition of “worker” is also unnecessary. This term is already sufficiently defined in national laws and by national labour courts and this position must be maintained.
  4. Furthermore, Ceemet does not see the need for an EU level “floor of rights” for all employees regardless of the form of their contract. Such an initiative would also be contrary to the principle of subsidiarity.
  5. Ceemet would like to emphasize the importance of supporting employees in the process of their transition from one job to another so that flexibility is not seen in a negative way by employees. Ways of achieving this would be to encourage all relevant stakeholders to invest in a commitment to lifelong learning and to develop appropriate active labour market policies.
  6. It is impossible for main contractors to have a subsidiary liability for sub-contractors. The introduction of such an obligation would have a negative impact on economic growth and, consequently, on employment.
  7. Finally, concerning working time, Ceemet would like to reiterate the main points of its position paper of October 2005 on the proposed review of the Working Time Directive (annex I):

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