The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has released its opinion on the Commission’s proposal for establishing a European Labour Authority. In principle, the EESC welcomes the Commission’s proposal, but expresses certain concerns, particularly with regard to the Authority’s mandate and funding, and criticises the inadequate involvement of the social partners.
Mandate of the European Labour Authority
The EESC stresses that, in order to meet the challenges of cross-border mobility, the European Labour Authority should be established on the basis of a clear mandate that respects the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality. The more precisely the European Labour Authority defines its mandate and the less it deviates from its objectives, the better it will be able to prevent its purpose from being misrepresented or interpreted negatively.
It is hoped that by pooling experience, capacities and tasks, it will be possible to achieve synergies and increase effectiveness. This should avoid duplication and lack of clarity. For the social security coordination bodies, this means involving the Audit Board and the Conciliation Committee of the Administrative Commission in the Authority.
Building on these capacities, the EESC believes that further innovative initiatives can be launched. An example of this is the creation of a European Social Security Number once the revision of Regulation (EC) No 883/2004 on the coordination of social security systems and work on the Electronic Exchange of Social Security Information (EESSI) is completed.
European Labour Authority’s budget
In terms of the effectiveness of the work done by the European Labour Authority, the EESC calls for adequate own resources to carry out its tasks in order to ensure the autonomy of the Authority. The EESC fears that under-funding could jeopardise the effectiveness of the Authority.
Involvement of social partners
The EESC is critical of what it sees to be inadequate involvement of the social partners. They should be more actively involved at European, national and sectoral level. To achieve this, the EESC has proposed changing the stakeholder group in Article 24 of the draft Regulation into a consultative committee and strengthening the involvement of the social partners in this body. The Consultative Committee should be composed of seventeen members, three representatives from the Commission, the Chair of the Management Board, the Executive Director, and twelve representatives from the European social partners. The Consultative Committee should be chaired by the Chair of the Management Board (a representative from the Member States) and not the Executive Director (Head of the Authority) as was originally planned for the Stakeholder Group. According to the EESC, the Committee should meet at least three times a year and not just twice.
Specifically, in addition to the tasks of the Stakeholder Group provided for in the draft Regulation, the EESC would like the Committee to be tasked with giving its opinion on the annual activity plan, the activity report and the Management Board’s proposal on the appointment of the Executive Director.
The European Labour Authority is expected to become operational as an independent EU agency with around 140 employees and an annual budget of €50 million in 2019. However, in the work programme of the Austrian Presidency, the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council initially foresees ‘only’ a progress report on 6 December.