Europe to enforce liberalisation of laws on unfair dismissal

30 November 2007

Europe to enforce liberalisation of laws on unfair dismissal

The European Parliament yesterday voted in favour of the European Commission's so-called 'Flexicurity' programme. The programme's aim is to bring about the further deregulation of labour law and the labour market in Europe. SP Euro-MP Kartika Liotard fears that Dutch Employment Minister Piet Hein Donner will find encouragement in the vote for the forcing through of his own plans to undermine national laws protecting workers from unfair dismissal. “It's disturbing that the Social Democrats of the so-called 'Socialist' group, including our own Labour Party (PvdA) voted in favour of the proposals for deregulisation. It will be difficult for them to oppose similar plans from the Employment Minister."

Kartika LiotardFollowing this vote in favour by the European Parliament, flexicurity will become a central ingredient in the EU directive on Growth and Employment which will shortly be decided on by the European Council. The Netherlands will then, on the basis of this directive, be required to draw up a national labour market reform programme. The core of this proposed ‘flexicurity’ is the weakening of protection of workers against unfair dismissal. .

For the SP, the result of the debate and vote in the European Parliament is disappointing, and none of the party's twelve proposed amendments was adopted. "Our amendments were designed to improve security for workers and their families. If you want to make it easier for people to move from job to job, you need a sound system of social security and good protection against unfair dismissal. That costs money, a great deal of money, and they're not willing to find it. To offer life-long learning and the chance of upward mobility, and to create sustainable employment, also costs money." The SP's proposal that two percent of GDP be spent on education and training was rejected.


The flexicurity programme represents a renewed intensification of labour market deregulation and for an active labour market policy. Unemployed workers must be given incentives, such as the threat of a reduction of their benefits, to 'encourage' them to accept job offers even if the jobs in question are poorly paid and of poor quality. The Commission wants to see employment contracts made more flexible and to undermine the standard full-time contract. Protection against unfair dismissal must be weakened because it makes employers unwilling to take on unemployed workers. Balancing this, we are told, will be a new form of social security. Through life-long learning and training opportunities, this flexibility should lead, in this view, to good jobs, enabling people to hop from one job to another and in this way adapt themselves to the demands of the labour market.

In a number of member states hundreds of thousands of people have taken part in mass demonstrations against this assault on their rights. Their protests have found support from unexpected quarters, with even the OECD having been forced to admit that in order to bring about real economic growth you have to improve job security, not weaken it. People who are secure in their jobs put more into them and are more prepared to involve themselves in further education. That's the only way to keep high quality jobs in the Netherlands. The majority in the European Parliament, 492 for, 92 against, with 49 abstentions, supported the European Commission's approach, which will certainly be adopted also by the European Council at December's summit, Liotard believes. The only way we will be able to defeat this renewed neoliberal assault on social security and workers' rights is with the support of the trade union movement.

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