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EUROPEAN NEWS BULLETIN

HEADLINES

  • WORKING TIME - Revised Directive not good news for unions.
  • EU COMMISSION - New faces are revealed (see Annex attached).
  • TEMPORARY AGENCY WORKERS - Unions concerned at lack of progress.
  • PUBLIC PROCUREMENT - GMB responds to UK Government Consultation.

OTHER NEWS
WORKING TIME - The European Commission is expected to adopt a proposal for revising the 1993 Working Time Directive on 22nd September 2004. GMB is highly concerned by an unofficial draft of the proposal it has seen, which maintains the opt-out to the 48 hour week, allows the average weekly working limits to be calculated over a 12 month period (and accessible through regulation, rather than collective agreement), adds new definitions of working time to the existing definitions: "on-call time" and "inactive on-call time", the latter which would not be counted as working time unless member states/collective agreements decide otherwise, and allows compensatory rest to be taken within 72 hours (thus undermining the SIMAP and Jaeger court judgments). GMB and European Unions consider the proposal fails to take account of the views given by ETUC in the 1st and 2nd stages of consultation on this issue and undermines the trade union bargaining role in the organisation of working time. GMB has responded to the Government's national consultation on the opt-out, calling for it to be phased out. For a copy of the response, see GMB website: www.gmb.org.uk

EU COMMISSION - The new EU Commissioners have been selected, and will take up their positions on 1st November 2004, if accepted by the European Parliament at the end of September. A full list of the new Commissioners of the EU's 25 Member States is attached to this Bulletin. Each country now has only 1 Commissioner: for the UK, Tony Blair nominated Peter Mandelson, who will replace Neil Kinnock and Chris Patten.

TEMPORARY AGENCY WORKERS - GMB and fellow European Unions are dismayed at the lack of progress towards agreement of the Temporary agency workers Directive at a Council working group on 1st September. GMB had been hopeful that the UK Government would show some movement on its position to encourage progress, following its commitment given at the national policy forum to work for early agreement of the proposals. Earlier hopes for political agreement at the 4th October Social Policy Council meeting now seem dashed. The proposals are likely to be now on the agenda for discussion only.

PUBLIC PROCUREMENT - GMB has responded to the UK Government's consultation on implementing the Revised Public Procurement Directives - carried out by the Office of Government Commerce (OGC). The Scottish Parliament, who has the right to implement independently, has also launched a consultation, to which GMB has replied separately. The Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies have chosen to implement with central government. GMB is disappointed by the narrow interpretation being given to social, employment, disability and ethical considerations in the government's document, and has asked for meetings with relevant Ministers to discuss this. A copy of the GMB response can be found on: www.gmb.org.uk (click in Europe - Europe documents)

EU CONSTITUTIONAL TREATY - GMB has produced a bulletin and briefing paper highlighting what the EU Constitutional Treaty holds for British workers. The bulletin will be launched at TUC Congress 13-16 September 2004. The longer briefing looks at the details of the EU Charter of Fundamental rights, due to be legally incorporated in the Treaty, if ratified, and its importance to trade unions. For further details see GMB website: www.gmb.org.uk

WORKING CONDITIONS/WORKING OVERTIME - According to a recent Eurostat survey for Spring 2001, 12% of female employees and 17% of male employees in the European Union Member States worked overtime. In EU-15 in 2001, most overtime hours were worked by male full-time employees, employees aged 55 or more, senior officers, managers, professionals and machine operators and assemblers. UK had the highest percentages for both men and women - 35% for men and 24% for women, with less than half of overtime hours for full time employees being paid.

ANTI-DISCRIMINATION - The European Commission is taking legal action against six Member States that have failed to transpose two anti-discrimination Directives. The Racial Equality Directive and Equal Treatment framework Directive prohibit discrimination on racial or ethnic origin, age, disability, religion and sexual orientation, and were due to be incorporated into national law last year (July 2003 and December 2003 respectively). The Commission will refer Austria, Germany, Finland, Greece, Belgium and Luxembourg to the European Court of Justice. The Commission's decision means that the Member States in question have two months to reply to a "Reasoned Opinion" from the Commission. Following that, they could then face the next step of referral to the European Court of Justice.

MINIMUM WAGES IN 2004 - Eurostat has produced data on national monthly minimum wages in the Member States of the European Union, and the US. The minimum wage usually applies to all employees in the economy and all occupations. There is a minimum wage in 18 of the EU 25 (Belgium, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Spain, France, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Hungary, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Slovakia, and United Kingdom) and in candidate countries Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey. Across EU25 the minimum wage ranged from 121 Euro (Latvia) to 1,403 Euro (Luxembourg). In the candidate countries the minimum wage was 61 Euro in Bulgaria, 69 Euro in Romania and 240 Euro in Turkey).

EU SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY - The European Commission has launched a broad 12 week consultation on the EU Sustainable Development Strategy. The results of this consultation will serve as an important input to the review of the strategy, to include an assessment of progress made since 2001 and a roadmap outlining what needs to be done to achieve long-term sustainable development. The consultation will be open for contributions until 31st October 2004, and can be accessed on the Your Voice in Europe site: http://europa.eu.int/yourvoice and on the [Sustainable Development web-site].

GREEN PUBLIC PROCUREMENT - The European Commission has produced a Handbook on Green Public Procurement. It explains in clear, non-technical terms how public purchasers, such as schools, hospitals and national and local administrations, can take into account the environment when buying goods, services and works. Each year public authorities spend some 16% of EU GDP, around €1,500 billion, on goods, services and works. Opting for environmentally sound goods, services and works, will help the EU achieve sustainable development. Increasing public sector demand for green goods, will encourage green production and environmentally friendly technologies to develop in the market. It also considers efficient use of energy and resources as well as waste prevention. The new Handbook gives best-practice examples and provides advice all along he steps of a procurement procedure, and can be found at: [this website]

GMB regrets that the EU Commission has not produced similar handbook for social and employment considerations.

TRANSPORT SAFETY - The EU Commission has set up a group of experts to advise on a strategy for dealing with accidents in the transport sector. Independent technical investigations into transport accidents, aimed at establishing the root causes of such accidents, could improve safety by helping to prevent them. The Group will advise on the need to improve existing legislation, and to bring forward new initiatives for all modes of transport, including the transport of energy (oil and gas pipelines).

ELECTRICIAL & ELECTRONIC WASTE DIRECTIVE - The European Committee of Domestic Equipment Manufacturers (CECED) has warned the EU Commission of problems with the implementation of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) legislation due to confusion over the definition of "producer". The legislation makes producers liable to pay for the take back and recycling of their end of life equipment. Manufacturers claim it fails to make clear who should be considered as a producer and what their obligations should be. The Directive is due to be transposed within three months and producers will have to meet the obligations placed on them in just over a year.

CHEMICALS/REACH - The EU Commission and European industry have agreed to launch a Strategic Partnership to test REACH chemicals legislation in practice. This is part of an overall Strategy aimed at preparing all actors, the Commission, Member States and industry for the practical application of REACH.

CONSTITUTIONAL TREATY - French President, Jacques Chirac, has announced that a referendum will be held in France on the Constitutional Treaty in the second half of 2005. France will join Britain in holding a referendum, but Germany has decided on parliamentary ratification. Other countries that will hold referenda on the new treaty include Ireland, Denmark, Spain, Portugal, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

EUROPEAN SOCIAL FUND AND SOCIAL POLICY - The Commission has adopted a package of proposals designed to cut red tape and target spending on EU employment and social policy. The new European Social Fund (ESF) for 2007-2013 will link funding with policies to boost employment and strengthen economic and social cohesion in the European Employment Strategy. It will be accompanied by a new programme that will fund other actions supporting the Commission's employment and social policy.
For further information, see [this] website and [this site]

EMU/EURO - The European Commission has published a report on Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) after 5 years, highlighting the positive contribution that the single currency has made to macroeconomic stability, and economic integration in Europe. The report also draws attention to some difficult challenges that lie ahead for the Euro area: tackling slow growth; preparing for ageing populations; making a success of enlargement; stronger coordination of economic and budgetary policies; improving the external representation of the Euro area. Full report (182 pages) available in the following [website]

For further details on any of the items contact: GMB Brussels Office Tel: 00 32 2 230 56 75; Fax: 00 32 2 230 56 24; e-mail: gmb-brussels@ geo2. poptel.org.uk

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