EU Council disappoints again working women

EU Council disappoints again working women

(14 June 2023) On June 12 the European Council set its position on the exposure to chemicals in the workplace claiming that it was ready to begin negotiations with the European Parliament on a new initiative to protect workers from health risks linked to exposure to dangerous chemicals.

The Swedish Minister for Gender Equality and Working Life, Paulina Brandberg, said that the Council position followed the ambitious position of the European Commission. For EPSU ambition would have been a more protective approach particularly towards pregnant women.

It its position the Council introduces a transitional period for the Biological Limit Value (BLV) until 31 December 2028. From the entry into force of the Directive until 31 Dec 2028 the BLV is 35 µg Pb/100 ml blood and only after that date it is reduced to 15 µg Pb / 100 ml blood whereas the Commission is proposing 15 µg Pb/100 ml blood as from entry into force. This also means that even male workers are not adequately protected during the transition period.

Also, despite Council 's claim, the discrimination issue between male and female workers is not solved since the final BLV proposed is protective for male workers but not for women. EPSU is extremely worried of the steps backwards that the EU institutions (both Commission and Council) are doing in terms of Health and safely (like in the negotiations on asbestos) but also the latest Council position on women's rights that also reflect on issues like health and safety.

For workers already exposed to lead ('historical exposure') and for whom blood lead level exceeds the BLV, the Council proposes that they may be allowed to continue with work involving exposure to lead if there is a declining trend of their lead blood concentration. This for us is unacceptable because if those workers continue to be exposed to lead and, on the contrary, their blood lead level increases they are victims of a double penalty. Not only is the decision to remove them from tasks with lead exposure delayed but the time required to reduce their level of lead in the blood to an acceptable concentration will also be longer.

It is time that EU institutions listen to workers and not just to industry. So far in this fight the European Parliament has been a major ally to workers, we will continue to work for this alliance to promote well being of workers exposed to chemicals.

For the Council Press Release