Pascal Lorne, founder and boss of Gojob, a digital interim agency
At its inception, the Covid-19 crisis seemed to further undermine European cohesion. With all due respect to the Cassandra, no one can dispute that the Twenty-Seven have succeeded in making this crisis an act of rebound, so that the Old Continent can reach new levels in its economic and political integration. However, as Europeans, this recovery plan leaves us hungry. Our leaders have once again forgotten two essential areas: the Europe of work and the social Europe. As it stands, the Union remains unfinished. This recovery plan does not tackle head-on what feeds populists and nostalgics of all kinds every day: the lack of harmonization of social standards between member states. To be economic and political, Europe must be social.
This lack of commonality in European social systems, coupled with the free movement of workers, works against our welfare states, confronted with legal social dumping, favored by the system of posted workers. Although recently reformed, it is the very nature of the posting system that opens the door to abuse.
Let’s face it, it is the countries with the liveliest economies and the most protective social systems that are victims of this system. Posted workers are the most numerous in Germany, France and Belgium. Their labor force is necessary for our economy. They don’t steal anyone’s work. On the other hand, posting allows their employers to absolve themselves from social contributions and to escape the financing of solidarity.
The complexity of this system and the incomprehension of the citizens end up playing in favor of the extremes, on the left as on the right, which hope to destroy the European Union. Only the harmonization of our social policies can save the Union. Very concretely, Europe must implement an ambitious and unprecedented political program to force the member states to converge their contribution and social protection systems for European workers. This harmonization of labor rights will only be achieved through strong political will, for example by threatening to unilaterally suspend the application of the posted work directives.
The President of the French Republic could be the spokesperson for this fight alongside the German Chancellor. Both countries, throughout their history, have both worked for workers’ rights. Germany invented the welfare state, France knew the Popular Front. But to move Europe forward, France can only act if it is credible. Our first position in terms of fiscal pressure within the OECD (Editor’s note: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) does not prevent mass unemployment or increasing inequalities. We must be aware that in exchange for renewed credibility on a European scale, it will be necessary to overhaul our national social model, which is seventy-six years old and ill-suited to changes and structural flaws in the French economy.
Why talk about credibility? Because we are frowned upon by our European partners. Arrogant, giver of lessons but fundamentally incapable of initiating positive changes, France must set an example by reforming while respecting the rules (economic and budgetary) that Europe has given itself. It is on this condition that we will be able to become one of the engines of a new European Union which would complete the project of the founding fathers of Europe in the fields of labor law and social protection.
The European Labor Union is an emergency. The majority of European citizens meet the Union at their workplace. And this is where it is possible to show everyone the advantage that Europe represents for them. This is how we will succeed in combating the rise of Euroscepticism and find the resources for a new European dream.