With the European Year of Skills, the European Commission has rightfully put the spotlight on the urgent need to tackle Europe’s skills shortages. However, the new legislation proposed by the Commission puts forward employers’ ‘easy-fix’ solution of migration, and lacks measures to improve the quality of jobs or a ‘right to training’ for workers’ competence development. The new legislation includes a digital tool called the ‘EU Talent Pool’. This platform will match jobseekers from non-EU countries with European employers and speed up visa and work permit procedures for participating countries. Meanwhile, there is little progress on the legislation to protect intra-EU mobile workers and third-country migrant workers from social dumping and exploitation.

IndustriAll Europe’s new position paper presents an analysis of the reality of labour and skills shortages in Europe’s industrial manufacturing, mining and energy sectors. The paper considers how migration is used (or misused) as a solution. 

Between January and February 2024, industriAll Europe surveyed its national trade union affiliates from 39 countries and 12 industrial sectors to assess the extent to which labour migration is used to fill shortages and to better understand how workers from abroad are integrated at the workplace.
The overall assessment paints a sad picture of social dumping and exploitation of intra-EU mobile workers and migrant workers from third countries. Our paper presents examples from Finland, Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia, Romania, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Spain, and Norway. Some cases reveal blatant violations that resulted in court sentences for ‘human trafficking’ and labour crime. In light of this worrying reality, we present our urgent demands towards policymakers and employers, as well as recommendations for trade unions, to ensure equal treatment of all workers and for good quality jobs in the transforming industry. 

Instead of putting an adequate regulatory framework in place to ensure equal treatment of all workers, the EU is facilitating employers’ cost-reduction strategy with the new EU Talent Pool. This initiative is even more worrying because of the precise list of occupations for which it is meant to match jobseekers from non-EU countries with European employers. 

IndustriAll Europe has joined the other European Trade Union Federations’ (ETUFs) and the European Trade Union Confederation’s (ETUC) call against this initiative in a joint letter addressed to the Belgian Presidency of the Council and all Permanent Representations. The Council’s text does not include any trade union recommendations and risks proliferating the existing issues that already lead to migrant workers’ exploitation, like the excessive use of subcontracting and intermediaries, as well as lack of involvement of the social partners. 

Isabelle Barthès, industriAll Europe’s Deputy General Secretary, said: “The deregulation carried out over the past 30 years of the European single market and the past 20 years of EU eastern enlargement have had deep consequences for the European labour market. The EU has done too little to promote the social acquis and followed too much the employers’ push for deregulation. The ‘freedom of movement’ has rightfully been promoted, but without the necessary regulation in place to ensure equal treatment of mobile workers from other EU countries, even less so of workers from third countries. The EU Talent Pool continues this toxic trend.

“The freedom of movement must be celebrated, but Europe also needs a ‘freedom to stay’. Intra-EU mobility is causing a massive brain drain in Southern and Eastern Europe, which will further widen the existing gap between Member States. The ‘freedom to stay’ means that everyone should have access to good quality jobs and social services in their home country without being forced to move abroad. Migration must be a choice, not a necessity. The same logic also applies to third-country migration.”

IndustriAll Europe Position Paper “Misusing shortages for a new ‘race to the bottom’? Equal treatment for migrant workers now!” EN DE FR