#EU4FairWork: highlights from the Week of Action
From 21-25 September, a wide range of events and activities promoted a culture of fair working conditions. From awareness raising activities to cross-border inspections, the message was clear: undeclared work does not pay – it's time to make the transition.
Labour inspectorates, social partners and other organisations across Europe created informational videos and brochures, launched dedicated webpages, reached out to the media, organised webinars and collaborated across borders through staff exchanges and concerted inspections.
Most events took place virtually. Despite the challenges brought by the current pandemic, colleagues in the European Platform tackling undeclared work found ways to continue their activities and spread the word about the benefits of declared work.
Outreach to specific groups and sectors
National awareness raising activities were particularly aimed at young people and students. For instance, Bulgaria, Italy, Portugal, Lithuania, Estonia, Belgium and Cyprus used traditional media (such as radio and TV) but also creative ways to reach out to them, including videos on social media and information sessions at schools or online.
In Belgium, the campaign kicked off already in March with a multimedia truck visiting schools to promote the benefits of declared work through augmented reality games, presentations, and a quiz. “Lots of young people have a student job, but often they are underpaid or have not signed a contract for example”, says Frederik Scheys from the Belgian work inspectorate, interviewed in a video reportage.
Many countries focused their communication towards foreign or posted workers. Norway, Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania and Romania worked together to inform mobile workers of their rights through a dedicated multilingual website and, in Finland, a webinar was organised.
As highlighted by the Finnish Minister of Labour Tuula Haatainen, a fair labour market is everyone’s right: “the [Finnish] Government has expanded its range of actions to combat the shadow economy, including taking stringent measures to tackle the exploitation of foreign labour.”
Joint projects and inspections
Inspections are an effective way to detect undeclared work and raise awareness about workers’ rights and the benefits of declared work. During the Week of Action inspections were organised in nine countries, four countries engaged in virtual staff exchanges and 12 countries collaborated in concerted inspections.
In a historic first, enforcement authorities from Belgium, Lithuania and Portugal conducted a pilot cross-border concerted inspection supported by the European Labour Authority. The inspection blended video-conferencing with on-the-ground visits to companies suspected of fraudulent activity. Jonas Gricius, Head of the Lithuanian State Labour Inspectorate, described such cross-border actions as "a turning point in inspections throughout Europe".
A similar method was used in the Tackling undeclared work in the Nordic countries project (supported by the EaSI programme), where road transport inspections were conducted before the Week of Action in Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia and Norway, aimed at vehicles or companies from another project country.
The findings were presented in a webinar. “It is crucial for the survival of the industry to secure competition on equal terms and to ensure safe and decent working conditions for drivers”, Magnus Falk, Head of Unit for International Affairs at the Swedish Work Environment Authority, concluded.
Social partners actively involved
The European Platform tackling undeclared work is composed of over 50 members and observers including labour inspectorates, tax and social security authorities of the EU Member States, Norway and Iceland as well as trade unions, employers' associations, federations and other social partners.
Social partners supported the campaign on social media and through specific campaign activities. For instance, ETUC launched a photo action with trade union leaders, WEC-Europe published an opinion piece on promoting declared work through temporary agency work, and the European Transport workers’ federation published videos and a statement to end bogus self-employment.
”Social partners, together, must be better involved in fighting undeclared work in construction”, said Joël Schons, Vice-President of FIEC during a joint FIEC-EFBWW webinar on undeclared work in the construction sector. SME united shared campaign videos. A joint statement between the social partners in Cleaning and Private Security was published.
The Week of Action is part of the #EU4FairWork campaign, launched in March 2020 in conjunction with the European Commission and the European Labour Authority.