IR Notes 118 – 24 April 2019
  A question for….
Philippe Pochet, General Director of the European Trade Union Institute

How do you rate the achievements of the current European Commission in terms of a social Europe?
Its achievements are honourable in light of the circumstances, i.e. given that it has been operating within a Europe in which centre-left governments are not in a majority. In this context, the Commission has defended positions that, generally speaking, represent a stronger social stance than those of the Member States. We can’t say that we’re back in a period where the social Europe project is regarded as a matter of extreme importance, but nor has this issue been sidelined in the way it was by the Barroso Commission. If the social Europe project is to move forward, admittedly a number of structural deficits will have to be dealt with, such as in some cases the absence of qualified majority voting to put social issues on the agenda, but there is also a need for strategic players who will take action, as emphasised by the book that has just come out (*). Clearly one such player is the European Trade Union Confederation. In recent years it has played a key role in lobbying and exerting pressure on Member States and the European Parliament to support and implement the European Pillar of Social Rights and to secure the adoption of directives containing measures promoted by the trade-union movement.  Using concrete examples such as health and safety in the workplace and gender equality, the book shows how a community of actors was mobilised, experienced successes and setbacks, and secured progress before seeing the issue for which it was the standard-bearer disappear from the European agenda.

* Philippe Pochet, « À la recherche de l’Europe sociale », Presse Universitaire de France, 372 pages, 26 euros (
19.99 euros on the publisher’s website), May 2019


16 May


France Stratégie is organising a presentation of the conclusions of the report on “Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Work”, produced by Michel Servoz, special adviser to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

20 to 24 May

European Trade Union Confederation 14th Statutory Congress.

27 to 30 May
The International Society for Labour and Social Security Law (ISLSSL) is organising its 6th International Seminar on International and Comparative Labour Law, dealing with the theme of “The Future of Work: Labour Law and Labour Market Regulation in the Digital Era”.

4 to 7 June

European Public Service Union (EPSU) 10th Congress

6 and 7 June

International symposium organised by Comptrasec, entitled: « Traite des êtres humains : de la diversité des pratiques à la qualification juridique » [‘Trafficking in human beings: from a diversity of practices to legal classification’].

12 to 14 June

6th European conference on standardisation, testing and certification in the field of occupational safety and health

13 June

Eurofound organises a webinar to discuss its latest research findings on the growing number of ICT-based mobile workers.

13 and 14 June

Meeting of the Employment and Social Policy Council.

28 June

Conference of the European Cleaning and Facility Services Industry on the sector’s future, with roundtables on social innovation, digitalisation and the circular economy (see programme and practical information)

  Who we are?


IR Notes is a fortnightly newsletter produced by IR Share and its network of experts, and is available in several European languages (English, French, German, Italian, Spanish). It offers Europe-wide monitoring of employment law, labour relations and employment policy. It is available by subscription for 18 euros per month

The team This issue was produced by Frédéric Turlan.
Find out more about the  IR Share team on our website

Subscribe to IR Notes Via the 
IR Share website or by calling us on:
+33 (0)6 81 41 53 95 or 

Legal notice. Publisher: IR Share SARL - 5, Les Compères - 89520 Fontenoy, France – Tel.: +33 (0)6 81 41 53 95 – share capital 1,500 euros – commercial register (RCS Auxerre): 512 567 959. Managing editor: Frédéric Turlan. Hosting: Ideal prod - 14 rue  Auguste Morel - 89100 Sens – France - Tel.: + 33 (0)3 86 83 21 21


IR Share is a privately- owned, independent, apolitical company whose aim is to inform and assist all players involved in social dialogue within and outside Europe. It has been the correspondent organisation for France of the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions since 2009.


Lead story
Speeding up the creation of a social Europe by extending qualified majority voting

On 16 April, the European Commission presented a communication on “More efficient decision-making in social policy – Identification of areas for an enhanced move to qualified majority voting.” There are already some areas where Member States have to pass a unanimous vote: 1° non-discrimination; 2° social security and social protection for workers (other than cross-border situations; 3° protecting workers against dismissal; 4° collective representation and defence of the interests of workers and of employers; 5° employment conditions of third country-nationals legally residing within the EU. So, to prevent deadlock situations being reached, the Commission plans to use the passerelle clause mechanism, as provided for in the European treaties. The Commission argues that the passerelle clause would enable Member States to decide, unanimously, to extend qualified majority voting to areas that currently still require unanimity, with a view to “rendering decision-making in the EU more timely, flexible and efficient”. The Commission suggests using a passerelle clause in the area of non-discrimination. The use of this clause could also be considered for adopting recommendations in the area of social security and social protection of workers, to “support the process of modernisation of and convergence between social protection systems”. All of the European authorities, the social partners and all stakeholders are being invited to state their views regarding these proposals. The next European Commission, which will take office after the new European Parliament has been formed, will be responsible for taking this matter forward.
Further information: The Commission has published a press release, a Questions and Answers fact sheet and annexes to the communication.

1. European Union

  • Train drivers : Regulation (EU) 2019/554 of 5 April 2019 enhances the flexibility of the required level of language skills provided for in Annex VI to Directive 2007/59/EC on the certification of train drivers on the railway system in the EU.


  • Coordination of social security systems : At the last session of the European Parliament, MEPs decided (291 votes for, 284 against and 6 abstentions) that they needed more time to revise the rules governing the coordination of social security systems.
    > see also:
    Reaction of the European Trade Union Confederation.

Social update

  • Future of Work : On 9 April, the European Commission organised a high-level conference on the future of work. Ten takeaways emerged from the discussions, such as the need to “define what we want the future world of work to look like, and how to get there” (see press release).

Sectoral social dialogue

Digital transformation in the chemical industry: On 9 April, the European social partners in this industry published a report on Digital transformation in the workplace of the European Chemicals Sector with a particular focus on the 2nd digital revolution (Internet of Things, AI, etc.). The authors reach six conclusions, one of which is that collective agreements need to pay greater attention to the issues of mobile working, working-time arrangements and qualifications. Other sensitive issues linked to the digital transformation (data protection, performance monitoring) also need to be addressed with collective agreements or accompanied by other initiatives (e.g. open dialogue processes).
see also press releases issued by IndustriAll and the ECEG, plus a summary of the report.

  • Protecting workers against formaldehyde: the alliance of formaldehyde producers and workers, which is made up of the social partners in the chemical industry, has been awarded a prize for its efforts to improve workers’ safety, by deciding, in a joint letter to the European Commission dated 27 June 2018, to tighten the  EU-wide binding occupational exposure limit (BOEL) for formaldehyde and to decrease the maximum allowed exposure threshold from 2 ppm to 0.3 ppm.
    see also press release).

2. Mitgliedstaaten

Application of the minimum wage for delivery drivers : For several months now, the trade-union federation Ver.di has been denouncing the practices of some parcel delivery companies using subcontractors who in turn employ workers from Eastern Europe and pay them as little as 4.50 euros per hour, whereas the minimum hourly wage is 9.19 euros. The Minister of Employment, Hubertus Heil, condemned these working conditions as “shameful” and announced a new law making delivery companies jointly liable for any breaches of the law committed by their subcontractors who fail to apply either the minimum wage or social insurance legislation. This is also a way of underpinning the agreement concluded between Deutsche Post and the Verdi trade union.


  • A study of burn-out at work : The Ministry of Employment has published a study in which researchers were commissioned firstly to measure the prevalence of burn-out and of persons suffering from “malaise” in the workplace in Belgium, and secondly to adapt the early burn-out detection tool created in 2013 for the purpose of assisting patients/workers, general practitioners and occupational health doctors. The study introduces some refinements in the detection tool but does not make it possible to calculate the prevalence of burn-out. It emphasises a certain stability of the phenomenon over the period 2010-2018.  The study emphasises the benefit of using two diagnostic tools side by side: the doctor’s clinical judgement, based on the early burn-out detection tool, and the patient’s use of a self-evaluation questionnaire.

3. Companies
European works councils

Chemical industry : The European market leader in PVC-based thermoplastic solutions, Benvic Europe, has established a group committee, by means of an agreement signed on 22 October 2018, under French legislation. The innovation lies in the fact that this agreement also covers its European subsidiaries, and draws its inspiration from the provisions of Directive 2009/38 on European Works Councils, even though the company has only 250 employees. Benvic Europe, which belongs to the Italian investment company Investindustrial, owns sites in Spain, France, Italy and Poland.

Food industry : The management of the Belgian family-owned Ardo group (3,800 employees), which is a global player in frozen fruit and vegetables, has signed an agreement to set up a European Works Council following three years of negotiations. Ardo owns sites in eight European countries (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom). The European trade-union federation EFFAT, which worked with the employees’ negotiators, expressed its satisfaction at this outcome and the UK’s inclusion within the council (see press release).

Car parts manufacturer : On 27 March, the US car parts manufacturer TI Automotive (28,700 employees) which, following legal action, had been ordered by the courts to initiate negotiations, signed an agreement creating a European Works Council, under English law. The agreement provides for UK representatives to remain and states that if the contract of employment of a European Works Council member comes to an end, management must inform the Chairman of the reason for such departure within a reasonable period of time.

  • Restructuring : IndustriAll Europe has called on Honda to convene an extraordinary session of its European Works Council to discuss the closure of the Swindon site in the United Kingdom (see press release).

Transnational agreement

Quality of life at work : On 1 July 2018, the management of the French mutual insurance group Groupama (32,000 employees, of whom more than 7,000 are outside France) and its European Works Council, signed a joint statement relating to quality of life at work. This text supplements an initial statement dated 15 February 2013 on the same topic, and adds provisions relating to work-life balance and to the impact of digitalisation.

Company agreement

Outsourcing to come to an end : On 27 March, the management of the German postal group Deutsche Post AG and the Verdi trade-union federation signed an agreement bringing the 13,000 employees who were hived off in 2015 back into the group, within regional subsidiaries applying the logistics collective agreement; this is less protective and generous than that of the postal sector (see press release issued by Verdi and Uni Europa). The transfer will take place on 1 July 2019 and the employees concerned will enjoy a guarantee against being made redundant until the end of 2022. According to Uni Europa, taking this step should enable the group to make savings on administrative and management costs linked to the various subsidiaries, and should also make the job more attractive, with a view to recruiting 5,000 drivers this year.

Trade unionism

  • The trade-union network established at steelmaker ArcelorMittal held its second meeting on 8 and 9 April. It called for negotiations to commence regarding a global framework agreement (see IndustriAll press release).

  • The international trade-union federations IndustriAll and UNI have condemned the recent restructuring plans announced by Kimberly Clark affecting Australia and the United Kingdom (see press release issued by IndustriAll and UNI).

  • The Hyundai and Kia trade unions have called on their management to negotiate a global framework agreement (see IndustriAll press release), which would be the first one concluded with a Korean group.

4. Studies and reports

Digital transformation : The High-Level Expert Group on the Impact of the Digital Transformation on EU Labour Markets, which was set up by the European Commission, submitted its report on 8 April. In particular, it suggests the idea of creating a digital skills personal learning account, to enable workers to maintain their employability in rapidly transforming, digital labour markets. The report also discusses the prospect of a “digitalisation” of the social dialogue, notably at platform companies, whereby employees could access digital dialogue spaces (“social worknets”). Employers, trade unions and platforms would be invited to participate in an ongoing exchange in other digital spaces (a “social digilogue”), with a view to enhancing collective outcomes.