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Joint Statement on the 10th anniversary of the Multi-sectoral guidelines to tackle third-party violence and harassment related to work

A decade ago, the European Sectoral Social Partners, EPSU, UNI EUROPA, ETUCE, HOSPEEM, CEMR, EFEE, EuroCommerce, CoESS identified third-party violence and harassment at the workplace as one of the key health and safety challenges to face within the European Economic Area and signed the Multi-sectoral guidelines to tackle third-party violence (TPV) and harassment related to work. In 2018, EUPAE and TUNED joined these organisations in their work to tackle this pressing issue.

Since then, we have seen a progressive increase of awareness and procedures available against harassment and violence as well as to widespread availability of data related to physical violence, sexual harassment, and bullying/harassment at workplaces.

With the Guidelines, the EU social partners supported the creation of a multi-sectoral level playing field, contributing to a result-oriented policy at workplaces, and where practical steps are set up and can be taken by employers, workers, and their representatives.

The signatories acknowledged that, although there are sectoral and organisational differences concerning third-party violence faced by workers in different occupational sectors and workplaces, the key common elements of good practice and steps to tackle it include a social partnership approach, precise definitions, prevention through risk assessment in consultation with workers and their representatives, awareness-raising, training, clear reporting and follow- up, and appropriate evaluation processes.

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Investing in people for the future of retail

Speaking at the Commission Roundtable on Skills for the Retail Ecosystem with Commissioners Thierry Breton and Nicolas Schmit today, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:

“Retail is a people business, serving people. Everyone working in retail has worked hard in ensuring that consumers have a reliable supply of daily essentials during the Covid-19 crisis. Many non-food retailers have suffered badly under repeated and extended lockdowns in many countries.  The pandemic has massively accelerated the trend towards digitalisation and online sales. EU and national authorities now need help our companies, especially SMEs, equip their employees with the skills needed to master these digital systems in the workplace.”

Together with EuroCommerce’s Director-General (as the recognised social partner for the retail sector), senior executives from 8 retail companies presented how their companies are investing in up- and reskilling of their employees amid a rapidly changing world of work and the digital transformation in retail. Retail provides stable and fulfilling jobs for 18 million people – and another 10 million in wholesale distribution. It has a strong track record in building up the skills they need to succeed in the workplace. Informal work-based learning ensures retail employees meet the ever-changing demands of their local customers.  

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Autonomous and voluntary social partnership the right template for fair social conditions

Commenting on the launch today of the Commission Action Plan for the European Pillar of Social Rights, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:

“Retail and wholesale are a people business, serving people. We provide stable and fulfilling jobs for 29 million Europeans; that is 1 in 7 jobs. We value immensely the work of all our colleagues who have worked during the COVID pandemic serving our customers, keeping the shelves stocked with the daily essentials consumers need, and adapting to a massive shift to online sales. Yet, we do not take that dedication for granted. We reward people and ensure that they can work safely. In most countries, the employment conditions in our sector are subject to collective agreements, and this has worked well. Active social partnership is a tried formula for managing and building consensus around changes in business and in the jobs people do. We therefore naturally support Commission efforts to promote social dialogue and socioeconomic convergence. But this should go with the grain of what is already in place nationally and be within the boundaries of the EU treaties.”

And while food retailers have been working hard to keep the food supply chain running smoothly, companies and employees in the non-grocery sector have faced restrictions, along with business uncertainty and job insecurity, for almost a year. We are seeking help in EU and national recovery plans to help investment in resilience for all our sector, and in equipping our companies and employees to play a key role in the digital and sustainability transition.

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Joint statement EuroCommerce/UNI-Europa

The EU Social Partners in the retail and wholesale sector are working together to ensure the continued safety of its workforce who are interacting daily with European consumers, while working to avoid the present COVID-19 pandemic putting at risk the 29 million jobs in the sector in Europe

The food supply chain is vital to the health and wellbeing of Europe’s citizens, and we wish to pay tribute to all employees in the sector, working hard and often long hours, to make sure that Europe’s consumers have what they need to live a normal life in extraordinary circumstances. Retail and wholesale staff have faced difficult working conditions and carried on providing a fundamental social service. 

They also wish underline the difficulties and uncertainty facing workers unable to work in companies the non-food sector which have been forced to shut down due to the measures aimed at combating the virus, and which face the risk of imminent bankruptcy.

Employers and unions are working together on necessary safety measures, maintaining physical distance among customers and staff, providing hand sanitiser and safety infrastructure in their shops, ensuring staff are allowed time for frequent handwashing and appropriate periods of rest, and are being trained in hygiene techniques to protect themselves.

The social partners also call on retailers to provide staff with guidance and protection in cases of violence and verbal abuse against them from customers panic-buying, or upset at out-of-stock items and waiting to enter or leave stores. EuroCommerce and UNI-Europa have reminded all social partners of the guidance they have published on how to deal with such incidents.

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Skills vital to digital and sustainability transition and economic recovery

Welcoming the updated EU Skills Agenda for Europe published today, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:

“In our joint statement with our social partner UNI Europa at the height of the COVID crisis, we paid tribute to the millions of people working in our sector and called on national and EU authorities provide financial support in helping our workforce to up- and reskill. We will be looking to the Next Generation EU Recovery Fund, to help the retail and wholesale ecosystem in accelerating its digital and sustainability transformation and bolster its resilience in the face of the damage sustained during the crisis. One in seven Europeans works in retail or wholesale. We will need the European Social Fund and European Globalisation Adjustment Fund to be focused on helping our workforce in weathering these challenges.”

The lockdown due to the pandemic has accelerated and consolidated the shift to online salesEmployees now need to master digital systems and tools, and, in order to attract customers back into stores, to hone their interpersonal skills and the ability to offer informed advice.

Verschueren continues: “People must be equipped with the skills needed to take on new roles due to digitalisation, and to interact with new systems using blockchain and artificial intelligence. But they need also to enhancing their soft skills; retail and wholesale will remain a people’s business. So, it is about combining high tech and high touch.”

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