Demos is calling on EU elections lead candidates to commit to improving workers’ lives as well as economic and social justice throughout Europe during their entire next term in office.
Open Letter to all Spitzenkandidaten
Bucharest, 23 May 2019
Dear Frans Timmermans, First-Vice President of the European Commission (PES),
Dear Ska Keller, co-President of the Greens/EFA Group (Greens/EFA),
Dear Bas Eickhout, Vice-President of the Greens/EFA Group (Greens/EFA),
Dear Nico Cué, Candidate to the European elections (European Left),
Dear Violeta Tomic, Member of the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia (European Left),
Dear Yanis Varoufakis, Candidate to the European elections (European Spring),
Dear Guy Verhofstadt, Chairman of the ALDE Group (ALDE),
Dear Margrethe Vestager, Commissioner for Competition (ALDE),
Dear Nicola Beer, Candidate to the European elections (ALDE),
Dear Katalin Cseh, Candidate to the European elections (ALDE),
Dear Luis Garicano, Vice-President of the ALDE Group (ALDE),
Dear Emma Bonino, Candidate to the European elections (ALDE),
Dear Violeta Bulc, Commissioner for Transport (ALDE),
Dear Manfred Weber, Chairman of the EPP Group (EPP),
Dear Jan Zahradil, Member of the European Parliament (ECR),
In Romania, around 50% of all employment contracts are set at the minimum wage level, which amounts to a gross monthly salary of 436 euros (260 euros after tax). Before the wave of harsh austerity measures adopted between 2009 and 2011, a mere 8% of employment contracts were in this situation. This sixfold increase is absolutely staggering and unacceptable for an EU Member State.
One would expect that after years of generalised economic recovery and growth, the socio-economic situation of almost half of Romania’s active population and of the people in their care would improve and that disparities in opportunities and wealth would decrease. Yet it is precisely this group of people that is still suffering the consequences of the harsh austerity measures adopted by the Romanian government after the crisis, with the encouragement of various EU leaders and institutions who went down the same road.
Sadly, Romanian workers’ economic, employment and social rights have continued to deteriorate throughout this period. In 2019, workers in about a dozen public and private sector undertakings (some involving third-country nationals) had to claim their rights to a decent, livable wage and to healthy working conditions by going on strike, some of them for more than two months.
Over the past weeks, we have monitored, engaged with and supported these workers. In doing so, we have seen that, even though the frequency of collective actions has recently increased, most social movements are in fact spontaneous strikes. This is because the vast majority of workers cannot resort to collective action and bargaining due to the very restrictive Romanian social dialogue laws, which limit excessively the possibility to claim such fundamental unionisation rights.
Indeed, Romanian workers have very few instruments at their disposal to negotiate during a labour conflict and the power balance between labour and capital is therefore skewed in favour of the latter. Wages that keep workers barely above the poverty line and the lack of access to social rights have forced many blue and white collar employees to leave the country. This has also resulted in a worrisome and prolonged crisis on the labour market, a situation which could lead to further abuses against workers’ rights, affecting not only the remaining working population, but also third-country nationals who are being inserted into the EU labour market without proper social protection.
We strongly believe that this state of affairs would not be possible if the European Pillar of Social Rights fulfilled its initial promise of a fair and equal Union. Currently, the EU does not have the instruments to effectively implement and enforce the right to collective action or social dialogue, the right to form and join a trade union, and it does not ensure wages that provide for a decent standard of living for working people, for their families and the people in their care.
As leading candidates in the EU elections who have received your colleagues’ endorsement for the Presidency of the European Commission, you might soon become directly responsible for the development, improvement and implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights. In this position, you will also have the possibility and, in our view, the duty to make workers’ rights – and, by extension, economic and social justice throughout the EU – a priority of your next term in office.
Taken together and applied consistently, the EU’s primary and secondary legislation and international social law (ILO Conventions, the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Social Charter) would have the necessary scope to protect workers’ fundamental socio-economic rights within the single market. This would result in:
- Guaranteed access to collective action and bargaining;
- Lower thresholds and less strict requirements for creating and joining trade unions, in accordance with major contemporary shifts in the nature of work, which increase the vulnerability of workers (e.g. the rise of self-employment and of so-called “gig economy” jobs);
- A guaranteed right to a minimum wage that ensures a decent standard of living for workers, their families and the people in their care;
- An adequate implementation of the principle “equal pay to men and women for equal work”.
As a newly-established political party that is committed to promoting genuine solidarity in a truly democratic European society, Demos will continue to unequivocally support and fight for the right of blue and white collar workers who are active on Romania’s territory to receive what they deserve: a fair and decent wage and safe working conditions. But one country’s efforts are not enough in the single market. Workers across the EU must enjoy equal treatment and must have access to fair socio-economic conditions and safety nets through a sustainable legal framework based on the principle of solidarity.
European workers feel that Europe has not delivered on its promise of prosperity and fairness for all. Your commitment to improving workers’ lives is therefore fundamental in stemming the tides of euroscepticism and chauvinistic nationalism that endanger the entire European project. Consequently, we urge you to take workers’ pleas into consideration and to adequately reflect them in your future decisions and legislative negotiations.
Diana Mărgărit – Spokeswoman
Claudiu Turcuș – Spokesman
Party of Democracy and Solidarity (DEMOS)
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