The Minister for Labour and Employment, Nicolas Schmit, gave a press conference on the occasion of the meeting of the EU Senior Labour Inspectors Committee (SLIC) organised on 12 November 2015 in Luxembourg at the initiative of the Luxembourg Presidency. He noted the need to review the recruitment and training of labour inspectors in the EU, and to give them the tools and competences to carry out their mission in a world of work that is undergoing a profound transformation, particularly with the impact of the digital economy.
In his speech, Nicolas Schmit stressed the importance the Luxembourg Presidency gives to the social dimension, particularly labour inspections, 'as without labour inspections, there can be no labour law or rules on safety at work'. He noted that labour inspections have a role to play in all EU Member States and that much of the legislation that falls within their remit stems from European Directives.
The Luxembourg Presidency has integrated the social dimension of the EU and the modernisation of the rules regarding safety at work into its programme. The Minister noted that the EPSCO Council of 5 October 2015 adopted conclusions on a new programme on health and safety at work in order to encourage better working conditions. The conclusions are focused on the future. The emphasis is on change, for instance in terms of technology and demographic developments. It is noted in the conclusions that all the changes must be taken into account in European legislation on health and safety at work in order to secure decent working conditions for workers.
In the context of a profound and ever-faster transformation of the world of work, Nicolas Schmit takes the approach that labour inspectors need adequate tools and competences in order to carry out their work. This also implies adequate training. As they are often confronted with difficult situations, such as in the context of mobility and posted workers: social dumping, undeclared work and other forms of non-compliance with labour law.
The discussion between European labour inspectors demonstrates that there is 'no ideal model', according to the Minister. While 'social dialogue cultures' differ from one Member State to another, the Minister noted that there are 'similar problems', such as so-called independent workers and pseudo-sole traders. This raises a number of issues: the relationship between workers and employers, the status of employment contracts – classic employment contracts are being watered down –, and the question of working time, particularly when it comes to remote working.
Faced with these challenges, a platform could be set up to exchange good practice, particularly on recruitment and training of labour inspectors. In general, according to Nicolas Schmit, a 'broad approach is needed to continually train and motivate labour inspectors'. They must understand both the labour market and labour law, evolving techniques, and have strong psychological capacities as mediators between employers and employees, as 'the job is about working in conflict situations'.
However, this approach is not yet present in the EU, according to Marc Boly, the Head of the Labour Inspectors' Administration in Luxembourg, even though there are major similarities between the problems faced across Member States. In his view, exchanges between Member States and shared training courses would allow links to be forged with border countries whose citizens enter the labour market of their neighbours, and for stronger relationships to be built, perhaps leading one day to joint inspections of one another's labour markets.
'I want to know what social Europe is, and I want to know what the EU triple A social rating is', concluded the Minister, who takes the view that 'social Europe will be built piece by piece'.