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Contribution to the meeting in Guimaraes about the EU green paper on labour law

EU green paper on labour law:
A middle ages for the working people,
The working relations and the rights of the working class

Dear comrades,
Firstly, I would like to bring you warm greetings on behalf of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Greece.

We greet this important political initiative of the Portuguese Communist Party. We believe that the combination of similar thematic international conferences with the participation of Communist and Workers’ Parties, with actions with the participation of the working class reinforce the effectiveness of the anti-imperialist – anti-monopolistic struggle of the communist and workers’ movement.

Dear comrades
The recent decisions of the Brussels European Council on 21 – 22 June 2007, with the “Reform Treaty” – as the European Constitution was renamed – and the sweeping changes to the labour law and the social security systems in its core, as well as the communication of the Commission on flexicurity, on 27 June 2007, signal the intensification of the attack by the capitalists and their political representatives against the working class and the people’s strata in general. Mission accomplished for the German Presidency! They resurrected the European Constitution, in cooperation with the rest of the governments of the member states, ignoring the will of the European peoples that condemned it, in a provocative manner. For her anti-popular success, Chancellor Angela Merkel was given a big clap, during the extraordinary Plenary Session of the European Parliament on 27 June 2007, by the coalition of the European plutocracy political representatives, Christian-democrats, Socialists and Liberals and all kinds of europeanists, Greens etc.

All of them applauded the promotion of the goal for the political completion of the reactionary EU edifice; for the more effective function of the capitalist economy, of the barbaric exploitative system, namely the acceleration of capitalist restructures that the European capital needs; for the all-out attack against the workers’ rights and the rights of the people’s strata.

Through the celebrations for the increased competences given to the European Parliament, they attempt to conceal that the renamed “Reform Treaty”:
  • Has an even more reactionary content than the European Constitution, rejected by the French and Dutch peoples and by other peoples, whose governments did not let them express themselves.
  • Was supposedly renamed to “Reform Treaty” from “Constitutional Treaty”, so that they could avoid the referenda in the member-states, because they are afraid of the peoples, especially those who rejected it through the referenda, and they want to ratify the Treaty behind their backs and against their will.
  • Imposes the concession of even more and exceptionally important titles of the member-states to the supranational EU institutions.
  • Suppresses the right of veto and establishes qualified majority, in favour of the more powerful EU member-states, for almost every issue, thus delivering a serious blow to the national sovereignty and independence of the EU member-states.
  • Suppresses the principle of unanimity within the police and judicial cooperation on criminal cases and the “fight against terrorism”.
  • Accelerates the completion of an EU legislative framework that curtails individual and collective rights and democratic freedoms, shields the power of the monopoles and reinforces the repressive mechanisms of the EU and the member-states against the people’s movement. The priorities recently presented by the Portuguese Presidency of the EU Council are in the same anti-popular direction.

The celebrations and the demagogical statements of the political representatives of the capital in the Council, the European Commission and the European Parliament cannot befool the peoples. No matter how many Treaties they lay down, either they are “constitutional”, “reform” treaties or however they may call them, they cannot suppress the contradictions within the capitalist exploitative system, the deep contradictions between imperialists for their dominance. They cannot preserve the EU edifice. More and more, every day, their deep reactionary and anti-popular policy gives birth to the peoples’ reaction and to the stream that will lead to the overthrow of this policy.

Reactionary changes to the labour law

Dear comrades
In the framework of this generalized EU anti-popular policy, the European Commission Green Paper, entitled “Modernising labour law to meet the challenges of the 21st century”, codifies the reactionary changes to the Labour Law, to entrench them institutionally in the legislation of the member-states.

The Commission communication on the 27 June 2007, entitled “Towards Common Principles of Flexicurity”, which constitutes the precursor of the reactionary changes to the Labour Law, is also in the same direction.

The essential aim of the monopoles and their political representatives is to suppress the integrated collective rights of the working class, thus giving a serious blow to the working trade union movement.

The European parliament report

On the 18 June 2007 the EP Committee on Employment and Social Affairs voted for the final report on the Green Paper, which will be discussed during the plenary session in Strasbourg, from the 9th to the 12th of July.

The report constitutes the result of another political compromise of the already known coalition of the European plutocracy political representatives – Christian-democrats (EPP), Social-democrats and Liberals – and moves in an absolutely reactionary direction against the working people. While trying to face the reactions that the Commission Green Paper has caused to the labour movement, they avoid supporting it openly; however they do it in a misleading and thus dangerous way. While they keep expressing inexpensive hopes, without any practical impact, they support the rationale, the philosophy and the goals of the Green Paper in their total. The report, as it was finally configured:

a.Greets the launch of a dialogue on the necessary reforms of the Labour Law, so that it can contribute to the achievement of the Lisbon Strategy goals.
b.Refers to several community directives, which practically turn against essential conquests of the working class, such as the directive 96/71/EC on the posting of workers, the directive 70/99/EC on the framework agreement on fixed-term work concluded by the industrialists and the European Trade Union Confederation, the 1997 ILO Convention on Private Employment Agencies, the ILO “decent work agenda”.
c.Declares that security during the working life is more important for the workers that the protection of jobs.
d.In order to obfuscate the issue, it may declare that contracts of an indefinite duration constitute the general form of employment and it may also describe the risks of non-standard contracts, but at the same time it accepts and recognises the need for flexible arrangements of the working time, in order “to meet the needs of employers and employees”.
e.Falters out hopes for the maintenance of collective labour agreements, but in the framework of “social partnership” and the cooperation among the social classes.
f.Supports the adaptation of the educational systems to the needs of the capital, while it proclaims the need for long-life learning and training.
g.Promotes the class cooperation of “social partners”, in the name of improving the business competitiveness.

In this point, we have to remark the following: While within the GUE/NGL political group, through collective discussion, there was a single decision to vote against the Green Paper in its total – a decision also accompanied by a written “minority statement” – the members from the Communist Refoundation Party (Italy) and the German Left Party (PDS) did not vote against the report on Labour Law during the meeting of the Committee on Employment, on the 18 June 2007, and finally “abstained”. Namely, according to the position expressed by the members of the Communist Refoundation and the PDS, not only do they not condemn the reactionary reform of the Labour Law promoted within the EU, but they also believe that this monstrous proposal of the EU plutocracy, which turns against the workers, may constitute basis for discussion, may change through delicate amendments and may later be accepted by the working people with less reaction. We consider this stance to be unacceptable. Not only does it not constitute a left policy, but it also gives an alibi to the political representatives of the capital to implement this policy against the workers. After this development the group of the KKE in the European Parliament made a written proposal to the GUE/NGL group for voting against the Green Paper, during the forthcoming plenary session of the European Parliament.

Dear comrades,
The goals of the capital and the EU are defined all over from the beginning: Labour law must be reformed, it must be overthrown, in order to serve the strategy of the European monopoles, as it was defined through the Lisbon Strategy and the annual “National Reform Programmes”. The update of the Lisbon Strategy, during the European Council in March 2005, and the continuous anti-popular measures constituted the EU response to the risk of remaining behind in the field of imperialist competition with the USA, Japan and the new global players, the so-called “BRIC” – Russia, China, India and Brazil – which came dynamically to the front. The aim of the Commission Green Paper is to pave the way for a White Paper on Labour Law, with the already well-known “flexicurity” in its core, which will accumulate and codify the already approved guidelines to the member-states on the single management and implementation of the efforts to reform the labour law.

The supposed “social dialogue” is necessary for the development of the vulgar and reactionary ideology that the sweeping changes to the labour law are the only way or at least a necessary “evil”, the “necessary price that the working class has to pay”, for the competitiveness of European monopoles, in order for the working class to be able to take advantage of it and to survive. “Social partnership”, the supposedly common interests of “social partners” and the supposedly common vision of “competitiveness” become an ideological tool and a pretext for the parties of the bourgeoisie, as well as for the compromised leaders of the European trade unions, in order to convince workers to accept without social reactions and explosions the suppression of their rights.

In the framework of this rationale, the leaderships of the ETUC/CES and of the affiliate trade unions in the member-states are ready to hand over the working class to the capital. In face of the demands of the European industrialists – “BUSINESS EUROPE”, as the former UNICE was renamed – for “even more radical reforms”, they critically accept the core of “flexicurity” and the “competitiveness vision” of the capital, while presenting it as a common class interest of the working class and its exploiters. They falter out some critical remarks in order not to reveal their role.

The Commission Green Paper overthrows the Labour Law, as it has been configured until today in the EU member-states. It suppresses every right conquered by the working class through hard struggle and sacrifice and with the influence of socialist countries.

The EU anti-workers philosophy is accumulated in the original neologism of the bourgeoisie “Flexicurity”, which supposedly combines “flexibility” with the supposed job “security”. Of course, what the monopoles are interested in is merely the “flexibility” of the employment forms and of the working rights, while the so-called “security” is used to “sugar the pill” of the new type of worker that the capital has been dreaming of: an “employable” worker, a continuous retrainee, who searches for a job with the less possible social care and rights, throughout his whole country and the other EU member-states, into old age.

The modernization of labour law constitutes for the Commission “a key element for the success of the adaptability of workers and enterprises… in order to promote a skilled, trained and adaptable workforce and labour markets responsive to the challenges stemming from the combined impact of globalisation and of the ageing of European societies”.

Through the Green Paper, the European capital redefines its three priorities on employment:

a)“attracting and retaining more people for the labour market”,
b)“increasing labour supply and modernizing social protection systems” and
c) “improving the adaptability of workers and companies and investing more to the human capital, through better education and skills”

Namely, its main priority is that more workers, young people, women, even elder people be exploited in the framework of flexible adaptation.

The key elements of the reactionary reform are:
  • Suppression of indefinite, stable permanent jobs and attack to the Collective Labour Agreements.
  • Suppression of the provisions of the labour law that protect employment.
  • Legalisation of the “slavery” offices and legal arrangement of the so-called “three-way employment relationships”, so that business do not have any responsibility and obligation to the workers to follow the labour legislation.
The main goal of the Green Paper, as it is openly and clearly acknowledged in the document, is the individual scope of the legislation and not the issues of collective labour law.

The Collective Labour Contracts are replaced by an individual labour agreement, adapted to the needs of the capitalist. Therefore, priority is given to individual labour contracts, that every worker will have to accept, obeying to the employer’s will, deprived of his only weapon: the power of collective and organized revendication and struggle of the working class as a whole.

For the inspirers of this anti-labour project the collective labour contract are characterised as obsolete industrial relations, which are not adequate in today’s conditions. The composers of the Green Paper recognize that flexible labour contracts “have become an established feature of European labour markets”. They must constitute the rule and not the exception, however extended they may seem.
  • “Flexible” employment types are combined with the full deregulation of the working time, the suppression of the standard daily working time.
    Working time and daily working time have always been a key element of the class struggle between the capital and the working class. The subversion of the 8-hour daily working time started through the community directives 1993/104/EC and 2003/88/EC and continues through the new Commission proposal 2004/607/EC, which was adopted by the European Parliament from its first reading and includes the term “inactive part of on-call time”, through which the deregulation of the working time is being prompted.

In the EU guidelines on employment and mobility of workers, there is the issue of suppressing the labour law provisions that define the single working and wage conditions. This is how they pave the way for the liberalization of redundancies! They aim at the suppression or at a decisive reduction of the compensations for redundancy, the notification periods, the costs, the procedures and the limits of collective redundancies.

The other components of the “flexicurity” policy are:
  • Life-long learning, continuous training and the adaptation and submission of education to the needs of the capital and
  • The suppression of any protective legislative provisions for the workers’ security, of the provisions on social security and of their very pension rights, further penetration of the monopoles in this auriferous domain.

The EU and the capital define the lowest possible level of working rights, just one step before the penury of important parts of the working class, so that they can control the risks of social explosions that this policy of promoting capitalist restructures daily creates and increases. In this framework, there is the whole idea of “decent work” (which also includes the supposedly popular proposal on the minimum guaranteed income), which has been demagogically promoted by right, centre-right, social-democrat, centre-left and opportunist forces, so that the integrated working rights be replaced by a “net” of lowest possible protection from penury.

One of the most reactionary changes promoted by the Green Paper is the “three-way employment relationships”, namely the “legalization” of slavery employment, temporary work and “workers’ loan” agencies, in order to establish the legal status of employment contracts of this kind, with the aim to discharge the employer from any responsibility and obligation to the workers who are employed under such relationships.

The ideological intimidation and the vulgar anticommunist hysteria developed by plutocracy, the EU, the parties of the bourgeoisie and the opportunists, through the media and the other mechanisms of the bourgeois state, have as their common element the attack against the KKE and the communist movement, the manipulation of the working movement.

The goals of the EU and the monopoles turn back the working class to a working Middle Ages. The pioneer, consistent, uncompromised and class activity of the WFTU and of the class working movement constitute a hope for the containment of the anti-popular policy of the EU and the European capital.

The KKE calls the workers, the poor people’s strata of our country, to realize that as long as the capitalist mode of production is dominant, all the elements of its edifice, such as the legal edifice and the labour legislation, will reflect the dominance of the capital and the exploitative production relationships. The conquests of the working class, through its hard struggles, will always be unsafe.

The struggle of the KKE and the class labour movement is steadily orientated against the anti-popular policy in its totality and against the carriers of this policy. In its day to day political activity, the KKE poses before the working class and the people’s strata not only the daily and very important and aggravated problems, but also the root of the problem and the alternative of the KKE for the formation of a social-political front and the perspective of the people’s power. The fulfilment of the contemporary needs of the workers, the people’s prosperity and welfare can be realized only with the overthrow of the capitalist power, for their liberation from capitalist barbarity, so that the wealth belongs to those who produce it.

***Contribution of Giorgos Toussas, member of the CC of the Communist Party of Greece, member of the European Parliament, to the international meeting of Communist and Progressive Parties of Europe “Against Casual Labour and Flexicurity for the right to work and the work with rights – For a Europe of the Workers and the Peoples”


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