This paper outlines the current state of play on the European internal market and sets out construction workers’ vision for the future of the European Internal Market for the construction industry. The European Federation of Building and Woodworkers (EFBWW) has decided to come forward with this as we have serious concerns regarding the development of a fair Internal Market within the European Union and we believe that we, as trade unions, can help create new and practical solutions together with other social partners and policymakers.
Our overall vision for the European Internal Market centres on the development of a fair competitive model based on innovation, productivity, skills and qualifications. Many academics have demonstrated that severe wage competition hinders sustainable growth and creates a downward social and economic spiral. For this reason, the EFBWW believes that the principle of “equal pay for equal work at the same workplace” should be at the heart of a sustainable European Internal Market.
Our demands are also a response to the increasing turmoil within the EU. As the EFBWW is strongly committed to developing a European social market economy with an emphasis on upward convergence of living standards, social protection, health and safety and working conditions, we are intent on developing and promoting social progress for all workers.
The EFBWW believes that not enough is being done at EU level to create fairness in the workplace, promote sustainability and combat fraudulent and abusive companies. EU policymaker often hide behind the pretext that they do not have the competence to intervene, or trivialise cross-border fraud and abuse, or claim that the problem relates to enforcement at national level. However, the EFBWW’s demand for better regulation at EU level does not mean that the
EU should interfere with existing national regulations or practices that are functioning correctly. Under no circumstances should the EU take any action that could damage effective existing national systems within the labour market.
The EFBWW is recognised as a European social partner for the construction industry and wants to be involved in creating better European solutions. Yet in our experience, a liberal vision of the European internal market has resulted in EU policymakers often viewing the European and national social partners and their role as an ‘administrative burden’ or as ‘red tape’. The rigid European Internal Market that exists at present strongly undermines the vital role of the European and national social partners in the construction industry and their willingness to develop a fair and sustainable construction industry. This leads to bad, unilaterally imposed policies.
The best way to achieve this is to include a Social Pillar in the European Treaty. Adding a Social Protocol to the Treaty establishes better and stronger legal control to guarantee that labour and social rights are given real substance. For the EFBWW, it is crucial that labour and social rights are at least on the same level of the EU legal hierarchy as the rules governing the internal market. To secure democracy and legitimacy, the Social Protocol should be developed in close cooperation with the workers’ movement.
Our vision requires a paradigm shift in policymaking. This paper will focus on measures and solutions that can be adopted within the current (legal) framework to help mitigate some of the European Internal Market’s worst failings and pave the way for a move in the right direction.