Thursday, February 16, 2006

EU Services Directive a threat to public services


The future of public services across the EU has been thrown into doubt after MEPs in Strasbourg voted to adopt a controversial Services Directive today.

The directive paves the way for commercial service providers from flower-arrangers to funeral directors to trade across borders within the EU – just as the single market legislation already allows for goods. But the UK’s Green MEPs voted against the proposals, warning they provided inadequate protection for public services – and could hit consumers hard.

Speaking after the vote the Vice President of the Green Group in the European Parliament, Jean Lambert MEP for London, said that the directive poses more questions than it answers:

“This Directive, does improve a disastrous Commission proposal, but it still lacks clarity.

“The Greens had offered a radical amendment of the legislation to make sure it could work for small businesses but still offer real protection of public services, however Parliament has chose a different route.

“Far too many doors have been left ajar for further liberalisation of public services and there are no assurances that the deeply controversial Country of Origin Principle is gone. The end result is a deal which leaves everyone claiming a victory but with nobody sire of the impact.”

Caroline Lucas, Green MEP for South-East England, added: “Though the directive does explicitly exclude health services, it does allow for international trade in education and social services: these should not be treated like widgets and washing machines – and we now need a separate law to protect vulnerable users of these essential services from the ‘race to the bottom’ in service levels which invariably accompanies the opening up of new markets.”

1 comment:

AN said...

GMB statement on the same issue;

GMB welcomes the outcome of the vote in the European Parliament today on the proposal for a Directive on Services in the Internal Market as major progress in pulling the teeth out of the unacceptable “Bolkestein proposal”.

GMB still has concerns on the continued coverage of Services of General Economic Interest, and will be seeking reassurances that both public and private healthcare will be excluded from the scope of the final Directive. However, the stronger and clearer exclusion of labour law from the proposals, and the fact that the damaging country of origin principle has been removed from Member States’ ability to apply rules on employment conditions, including those laid down in collective agreements, is seen as significant and very necessary progress.

GMB also welcomes the removal of the Private Security Sector and Temporary agency workers from the scope of the Directive, for which the union has campaigned very hard.

Paul Kenny, Acting General Secretary said:“This has been a very positive day for the GMB and our European trade union colleagues. This Directive is still not finished business, and we remain concerned about the coverage of Services of General Economic Interest and clarity on the exclusion of both public and private healthcare, but there is no doubt today that the European Parliament has listened to the concerns of the trade union movement, and realised the havoc that the original proposals would have created for European workers and the quality and integrity of the Services sector, where so many of our jobs now lie.

MEP’s have gone a considerable way in the vote today to draw the poison out of the unacceptable Bolkestein text, and GMB commends them for that. We welcome the removal of the Private Security Sector and Temporary Agency workers from the scope, which would have had very serious affects in these industries. We call for the separate Directive on Temporary Agency workers to be brought to a positive conclusion as soon as possible, and look forward to being part of a wider approach towards upwards harmonisation of standards and conditions in more of our key service sectors. Europe’s future lies in setting high standards to ensure quality services, not in creating a bargain basement, based on the “how low can you go, Jo?” principle.