The Employment and Social Affairs Committee questioned Nicolas Schmit, candidate for the Jobs portfolio, on Europe’s social dimension and the future of work.

Political groups’ coordinators from the committee will meet within 24 hours to assess the performance of Commissioner-designate Schmit.

European Social Pillar of Rights and fair minimum wage

During his introductory speech, Mr Schmit underlined his strong commitment to the European project and values, and to the economic and social progress of our citizens.

“The strength of the European model is to reconcile economic and social issues and to fully incorporate the environmental dimension.”

If confirmed, Mr Schmit will pursue two main goals: Firstly, to boost employment and to promote a well-skilled workforce responsive to the digital and climate transition ahead of us. Secondly, he announced he would put social rights for all and social inclusion at the centre of his priorities.

MEPs put forward several questions on the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, particularly about concrete legislative proposals and financial support to create a genuine Social Europe. Members wanted to know how to adequately protect the social rights and working conditions of digital platform workers. Members also questioned the commissioner-designate on his commitment to establish an EU Child Guarantee to fight child poverty, in particular how such a policy should be funded.

Members also asked about legislation on an EU minimum wage, in light of protecting well-established social dialogue and collective bargaining practices in some countries. Others asked about plans to support digital vocational skills and related issues on training and education. Later in the hearing, MEPs raised questions about supporting SMEs to meet today’s challenges while ensuring fair wages and decent working conditions. Furthermore, members raised issues such as posting of workers rules, access to jobs for disabled people, how to boost the social economy and increase social housing. They also raised concerns over the EU unemployment reinsurance scheme.

EPP: European pillar of social rights – Schmit has to deliver

“The Commissioner-designate for Jobs, Nicolas Schmit, performed today in a committed and rather competent way. If his position is confirmed, I am sure that we, the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, will work well and closely together with him. However, he must then deliver on the promises made today”, said Dennis Radtke MEP, EPP Group Spokesman on Employment and Social Affairs, after Nicolas Schmit’s hearing in the European Parliament.

“Strengthening the European pillar of social rights must be at the forefront over the next five years. It is here that the EU can once again create the famous added value that European citizens experience every day, namely at their workplace and in their wallets”, Radtke added.

“We made it very clear during the hearing: social dialogue is one of the foundations of our democratic society and the free market economy. We must strengthen the social partnerships in all Member States and bring them to a comparable level. Then we don’t even need a political minimum wage. We must ensure that even workers in atypical forms of employment have the opportunity to join trade unions and make their voices heard. Nicolas Schmit must make this happen”, Radtke concluded.

Schmit is the right person for jobs and social affairs, say S&Ds  

Reacting immediately after the hearing of Nicolas Schmit, Commissioner-designate for Jobs, Agnes Jongerius, MEP and S&D coordinator for the employment committee said:

“In today’s hearing, Nicolas Schmit proved beyond any doubt that as Commissioner for jobs, he will be the right man in the right place at the right time. With his many years of experience as a minister of Labour and Social Affairs in Luxembourg, his impressive network and his truly European spirit, he is simply the perfect candidate for the job.

“Nicolas Schmit is fully committed to implementing the European Pillar of Social Rights; therefore he can count on the support of the S&D Group. Ensuring that every European will be able to live from their work, or get the necessary support to find a job, will be his focus for the next five years. I was particularly happy about his ideas on how to better protect platform workers. All workers, including self-employed workers, deserve social protection and decent working conditions, offline and online,” she added.

“We again call on Commission president-elect Ursula von der Leyen to correct the omission in the title of the Commissioner’s portfolio: social affairs should be added as a crucial part of Nicolas Schmit’s work. For the European project to endure, Europe must grant its citizens improved social rights,” concluded Jongerius

“With a comprehensive European Strategy to combat poverty, we can lift 10 million people out of poverty by 2024, ensuring social inclusion, gender equality and inclusive labour markets. Our group continues to fight for a Child Guarantee in order to ensure that every child has access to free quality education, free quality care, free quality healthcare, decent housing and adequate nutrition. It is good news for all Europeans that they will now have Nicolas Schmit on their side in the fight for a more social and sustainable Europe,” added Heléne Fritzon, MEP and vice-president of the S&D Group.

Based on the committees’ recommendations, the Conference of Presidents will decide on 17 October if Parliament has received sufficient information to declare the hearing process closed. If so, the plenary will vote on whether or not to elect the Commission as a whole on 23 October, in Strasbourg.