European trade unions and employers presented EU leaders with a "milestone" joint text defining the main challenges facing Europe's labour markets and proposing common recommendations during the Tripartite Social Summit, which took place on 18 October in parallel to the informal meeting of heads of state and government in Lisbon (EurActiv 19/10/07).
After months of arguments over the 'right' amounts of flexibility and security required to put the flexicurity model into practice, trade unions and employers agreed on a common approach, which they say can "create a win-win situation and be equally beneficial for employers and employees".
But despite agreement on the flexicurity concept from trade union leaders at European level, more than 150,000 people demonstrated on the streets of Lisbon, with banners such as "Jobs with rights – Against Flexicurity", in a protest staged by Portugal's main trade union.
While stressing the need to adapt labour law and contracts to make it easier for employers to hire and fire people, the joint document adds that flexicurity "needs to be accompanied by the provision of good working conditions and quality of jobs". These include:
- Ensuring career and employment security;
- maintaining and promoting the health and well-being of workers;
- developing skills and competencies, and;
- reconciling working and non-working life.
The joint document also calls on member states to adapt education and training systems to the needs of the labour market and to examine how tax systems, social benefits and wage policies can better encourage workers to stay in or return to the labour markets.
The social partners said they hoped EU employment and social ministers would take up their recommendations when they meet to discuss flexicurity on 5-6 December.