Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund

Jul 15, 2015
Discussion on better regulation and REFIT

EU better regulation package must not lower standards

Frans Timmermans, First Vice-President of the European Commission, discussed the “better regulation” EU program with German trade unions and employers on July 14 in Berlin. DGB board member Annelie Buntenbach clearly set out her concern that reducing bureaucracy must not be used as a pretext to lower health and safety, social, environmental, or consumer protection standards.

 

Figuren Forderung Meine Grundrechte in der EU

DGB/Simone M. Neumann

The “better regulation” program aims to increase people’s trust in the decisions taken by the EU, said Timmermans during the event entitled “Better regulation: dialog with business and unions” and organized by European Movement Germany (EMG). “We must not lower our standards,” he said, addressing worries about the EU program, adding that better regulation will not jeopardize health and safety standards.

Buntenbach: reducing bureaucracy must not be used as a pretext to cut employee and consumer rights

“The trade unions are naturally in favor of good regulation. We naturally also welcome attempts to make legislation simpler and more efficient,” said DGB board member Annelie Buntenbach. “But we take a closer look if we see a reduction in bureaucracy being used as a pretext, for example to review regulations concerning social, environmental, or consumer protection or hinder further regulation in these areas. In other words, if reducing bureaucracy is no longer the primary objective but simply a means of assailing specific standards or regulations.”

REFIT program: worries that key social standards are being jeopardized

Buntenbach on the European Commission’s REFIT program, under which all EU regulation has been reviewed and subjected to “fitness checks” since 2012: “We are extremely concerned that this program is being used to launch an assault on key social standards and achievements.” These include standards regarding health and safety in the workplace.

Programs impact on health and safety

As Buntenbach says, the scheduled review of the entire body of directives in the field of health and safety in the workplace must also be seen in the context of the REFIT program and plans to reduce bureaucracy. “Evaluation of these 24 directives places the modernization process and with it an improved in regulation in jeopardy.” Here, she continues, “we face major challenges ahead”.

Three examples that show how the EU project to reduce bureaucracy may impact on health and safety:

  • Cancer: citing the REFIT review, the European Commission is delaying implementation of the reforms to the outdated cancer directive proposed over the last 10 years that aim to provide protection from work-related cancerous diseases.
  • Musculoskeletal disorders: despite a need for action (in Germany alone, back problems are responsible for one in 10 sick days), nothing is being done to improve or modernize the EU directive on lifting and carrying loads.
  • Maternity protection: the Commission has put its own proposal for a better maternity protection directive on ice for seven years; for over two years reasoning that “bureaucracy fitness checks” are required beforehand. The Commission has since withdrawn its proposal entirely.

The DGB takes a close look if it believes that “reducing bureaucracy is no longer the primary objective but simply a means of assailing specific standards or regulations,” said DGB board member Annelie Buntenbach (far left on podium) during the EBD dialog on better regulation.


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