David Cameron addresses a meeting on the European Commission REFIT. Photo: Chancellery of the Prime Minister of Poland
Bad day for European regulation
The European Parliament has, in the past, been seen as being a useful tool in challenging the European Commission when they have tried to reduce worker or public protection. Earlier this month however they let us down badly.
The Parliament discussed the Commission’s de-regulatory programme called REFIT which says that the Commission will not be bringing in any more regulations on workplace safety (and many other areas as well). Everything that was in the pipeline to do with safety at work has been blocked, including proposed Directives on musculoskeletal disorders, and carcinogens, which are two of the biggest health issues in Europe. The Commission is also considering proposals to remove the protection of workers in small businesses.
A report called “Better Lawmaking” was voted on and approved. Although the European Parliament did agree that small businesses should be treated the same as large ones, on worker protection they voted against a very simple and straightforward amendment which said that parliament:
“Stresses that the measures and provisions proposed under the heading ‘Better Lawmaking’ must not undermine environmental, consumer or worker protection; underlines that, as regards social partner agreements, the autonomy of the social partners must always be respected, as must their right to reach agreements, which are then transposed into law;”.
They also voted against measures to ensure that employers and unions were consulted on any measures to reduce “burdens”.
The end result is that parliament voted for a resolution that supports exemptions for SMEs, links the creation of jobs and growth with reduced regulation and even contains the ridiculous claim that it:
“Understands ‘gold-plating’ to be the practice whereby Member States, in transposing EU directives into national law, go beyond the minimum requirements; reiterates its support for measures to tackle unnecessary gold-plating and therefore invites Member States to explain, in cases where gold-plating is undertaken, their reasons for doing so”.
This completely undermines the claim that European directives are minimum standards and member states should be free to transpose them in a way that best suits them so long as they meet the minimum requirements.
Of course this has all played right into the hands of Cameron and the anti-regulatory wing of the Commission who are doing his bidding and will make it even more likely that the new Commission, due to be appointed shortly, will also take up the deregulation agenda.
Remember, in June this year there are elections to the European Parliament and you may want to see how your MEP voted and challenge them.