Local Government Sector: European Pillar of Social Rights, Digitalisation and Finnish Health Care Reform

At their meetings on 19th and 20th of September 2016, the EPSU local government unions discussed the way forward on the European Pillar of Social Rights. Esther Lynch, ETUC Confederal Secretary presented the plans and next steps on ETUC’s strategy on the European Pillar of Social Rights.

European Pillar of Social Rights

The ETUC defined seven priorities, which includes the thrive to strengthen social protection and public service provision.

  • A fairer economy for quality job creation
  • A pay rise for fairness at work and economic  justice
  • Improved enforcement of existing rights and establishment of new rights
  • Fair mobility
  • Secure labour market transition
  • Social protections and strong public services
  • Institutional Mechanisms

A broad public consultation launched by the European Commission scheduled from March-December 2016 is on its  mid-way point. ETUC will elaborate a standard format for replies so that all affiliates can respond best to the public consultation.

Reform of Social and Health Care in Finland

Also on the programme of the meeting was a case study on the reform of Social and Health Care in Finland. The reform is triggered by a growing need for services among the aging population, the economic situation as many municipalities have difficulties in financing e.g. healthcare services. The reform introduces the notion of “customer” which can choose between public, private, or third sector providers increasing the competition. The colleagues presenting the new reform from EPSU affiliated unions Tehy and JHL noted that the new reform was a disguised introduction to privatize the services in health and social services. Central government tax revenue will be increased through the current earned income tax system. 220.000 employees will be transferred according to the draft bill from municipalities and state to the “counties”. This will apply to employees in municipal social and health care services as well to employees in other municipal services (food, cleaning).

Trade union concerns on the introduction of this reform is the competition about working conditions, collective agreements, workplaces and the harmonization of salaries of over 200 000 employees. There is a risk of breaking the care chain provided by social and welfare professions and the service chain provide by the supporting services. There is also an increased risk of cuts in salaries and benefits as the supporting services are usually open for public procurement.

Digitalisation and public services

The Committee was also updated by Patrick Orr, EPSU Policy Assistant on the on-going EPSU activities on digitalization. Two EPSU social dialogue projects in NEA and LRG are addressing the challenges of the introduction of new technologies and their impact on the workforces and well-being in these sectors. EPSU also tries to coordinate with other ETUFs and contributes to the ETUC debate on digitalization through a public service angle. A position paper was adopted at the April Executive Meeting and a conference held in Vienna. There is also on-going work on the e-government action plan and EPSU took part at a roundtable discussion with Commissioner Oettinger on digital skills.

The next steps will be to raise and deepen the issue in social dialogue in several sectors and integrate digitalization into other issues (e.g. procurement). Respond to the consultation on Digital Single Gateway and/or input into Commision’s actions in the e-government action plan. EPSU will also need to repond to the Commission’s work on smartcities and use the position paper to influence policy discussions about digitalization and public services.

  • EPSU Standing Committee on Local and Regional Government, 20 September 2016