Portugal leads push for European flexible labour

Employers are pressing for maximum progress on boosting labour market
flexibility at this week’s EU economic summit in Lisbon.

They see a window of opportunity with the Portuguese presidency emphasising
innovation and lifelong learning, ahead of the French presidency where more
labour regulation is set to return to the agenda.

European employers’ body Unice and the CBI have set out demands calling for
an end to remaining barriers to employment of people across Europe. These
include high social security costs and rigid wage-setting arrangements at
national level.

They welcomed the approach of the Portuguese government. "We are
talking about a shift in policy approach which is very welcome," said
Unice social affairs director Thérèse de Liedekerke.

"The agenda is how to turn Europe into a competitive economy, looking
at what is the engine of growth, which is the development of the knowledge- and
innovation-based economy," she said.

CBI human resources policy director John Cridland also welcomed the switch.
"In a fast-moving knowledge economy it is vital to allow people as much
freedom as possible."

Portugal’s prime minister Antonio Guterres has backed job rotation and
lifelong learning as part of a drive towards a better equipped workforce.

As an example, he favours a "European driving licence" for
information technologies. "The aim is to stimulate the acquisition and
certification of basic IT skills by the entire European population," he
told the Knowledge 2000 conference in London this month.

Employers’ groups fear that the French presidency, starting in July, will
see a reversion to proposals for more regulation. "There is still a
tendency in certain countries, France being one of them, to try to solve
problems by social engineering methods," said de Liedekerke.

France is likely to resurrect plans for compulsory employee consultation in
all European firms with more than 50 staff.

By Philip Whiteley




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