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13.5.  Improvement of living and working conditions in the EU

  1. The social dialogue in the EU
  2. Worker information, consultation and participation in the EU
  3. Social protection in the EU
  4. The organisation of work in the EU
  5. Equal treatment for men and women in the EU
  6. Action to combat social exclusion in the EU
  7. Safety and health at work in the EU
  8. Public health protection in the EU

In Article 151 of the Treaty on the functioning of the EU (ex Article 136 TEC) the Union and the Member States declare having as their objectives the promotion of employment, improved living and working conditions, proper social protection, dialogue between management and labour, the development of human resources with a view to lasting employment and the combating of social exclusion.  With a view to achieving these objectives, the Union supports and complements the activities of the Member States in the following fields:

(a) improvement in particular of the working environment to protect workers' health and safety;

(b) working conditions;

(c) social security and social protection of workers;

(d) protection of workers where their employment contract is terminated;

(e) the information and consultation of workers;

(f) representation and collective defence of the interests of workers and employers, including co-determination, subject to paragraph 5;

(g) conditions of employment for third-country nationals legally residing in Union territory;

(h) the integration of persons excluded from the labour market, without prejudice to Article 166 (TFEU);

(i) equality between men and women with regard to labour market opportunities and treatment at work;

(j) the combating of social exclusion;

(k) the modernisation of social protection systems without prejudice to point (c).

To this end, the European Parliament and the Council:

(a) may adopt measures designed to encourage cooperation between Member States through initiatives aimed at improving knowledge, developing exchanges of information and best practices, promoting innovative approaches and evaluating experiences, excluding any harmonisation of the laws and regulations of the Member States;

(b) may adopt, in the fields referred to in paragraph 1(a) to (i), by means of directives, minimum requirements for gradual implementation, having regard to the conditions and technical rules obtaining in each of the Member States. Such directives shall avoid imposing administrative, financial and legal constraints in a way which would hold back the creation and development of small and medium-sized undertakings.

In the fields referred to in paragraph 1(c), (d), (f) and (g), the Council shall act unanimously, in accordance with a special legislative procedure, after consulting the European Parliament and the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. The Council, acting unanimously on a proposal from the Commission, after consulting the European Parliament, may decide to render the ordinary legislative procedure applicable to paragraph 1(d), (f) and (g) (Article 153 TFEU).

The determination of wages is the sole responsibility of the Member States. Wages are, in fact, usually determined within the framework of collective bargaining or by reference to such bargaining by various practices in the Member States. The notion of a guaranteed minimum wage depends on different criteria in the Member States of the EU and its definition is left to them. However, the Social Charter of 1989 called on the Member States to ensure that workers secure an equitable remuneration (which is a different notion from the minimum wage), meaning a reward for work done which is fair and sufficient to enable them to have a decent standard of living [COM/93/388].

The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, which is located in Dublin, has the task to develop and to pursue ideas on the medium and long-term improvement of living and working conditions in the light of practical experience and to identify factors leading to change [Regulation 1365/75].

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Your roadmap in the maze of the European Union.

Based on the book of Nicholas Moussis:
Access to European Union law, economics, policies
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Translated into 14 languages


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