Employment ministers gathering in Brussels on 5 and 6 December are set to adopt dossiers on flexicurity, company pensions and temporary agency work. Some projects, however, will only be presented as watered-down versions.
Flexicurity: Eight common principles on flexicurity are likely to pass unanimously, without discussion (EURACTIV 29/11/07). The draft acknowledges challenges to EU labour markets as identified by the Commission, but it stops short of defining a path to more efficient labour markets as proposed in the Commission’s Communication (EURACTIV 26/08/07).
Supplementary pensions: As changes in labour markets force workers to move from one employer to another more frequently, the question of pension schemes offered by companies or on a per-branch basis becomes crucial. However, the right to transfer the equivalent of pension rights acquired under one scheme to another has been dropped, due namely to resistance from Germany and a Parliament vote which deleted all provisions with respect to transferability (EURACTIV 10/10/07).
This left vesting conditions as the sole controversial issue in the proposal: From which age can workers acquire rights to supplementary pensions, and after how long an employment period? And will the proposal be effective in retrospect or not? The Commission proposal for a minimum age of 21 and a two-year vesting period met with fierce resistance from Germany, where the minimum age is 25 and the vesting period was only recently reduced from ten to five years.
A compromise proposal by the Portuguese Presidency, which foresees a minimum age of 25 and a two-year vesting period, is set to find the necessary unanimity at the Council meeting.
Temporary agency work: A deal was clinched last summer in order to overcome previous resistance, namely by the UK, against the principle of equal treatment of workers detached by temporary work agencies and those employed by the company they work for (EURACTIV 27/07/07). In exchange, the UK was offered other member states’ agreement on a more far-reaching liberalisation of the sector and the question of payment was excluded from the equal treatment principle.
The agreement is, however, still not sure to find UK approval. On the other hand, the UK is unlikely to attract a blocking minority sufficient to kill the proposal.