David Martin MEP

Labour Member of the European Parliament and one of the six MEPs representing Scotland in Brussels and Strasbourg

euro tu matters_December 2015


Labour MEPs call on the UK government to stop blocking EU action to tackle the steel crisis

The European steel sector is in crisis. Sites are closing with thousands of well paid, highly-skilled jobs being lost. The global steel market is saturated with overcapacity driving down prices to unsustainable levels.

UK ministers are thwarting reform of the EU's trade defence measures, reforms that would enable more to be done to stop the dumping of steel by countries like China who sell it at prices below that it can fetch at home or export at below the cost of production.

The government must do more to stand up for our steel industry and work with other EU countries and the Commission to bring in stronger anti-dumping measures. Labour MEPs want it to be made easier for affected communities to bring a complaint against a company for dumping and ensure quicker action is taken once an investigation is started. The majority of steel dumped by China ends up in Britain, and it needs to be made easier for affected communities to bring complaints against these Chinese companies.

Labour MEPs call for stronger action to eliminate violence against women

Violence against women remains a reality across Europe. One in three women in the European Union has experienced some form of physical or sexual violence. In Britain, the figure is almost 50 per cent.

On 25 November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) Labour MEPs called on Member State governments to immediately ratify the Istanbul Convention, the first European treaty to specifically address violence against women and create binding obligations on countries. These include tackling gender stereotypes, training professionals who work with survivors, and the provision of specialist, adequately resourced support services.

It is estimated that violence against women costs the UK economy billions of pounds every year through the additional costs to public services and the criminal justice system. Domestic violence is also a major barrier to women's employment. In the EU we are developing strategies to eliminate violence against women but in the UK we continue to witness government cuts affecting women disproportionately.

EU strategy to cut number of workplace deaths, injuries and illnesses

In the UK in the last year, 142 workers were killed at work, 611,000 injuries occurred, and there were half a million new cases of ill health brought on by work. More than 27 million days were lost due to work-related ill health or injury, at a cost of £14.3 billion.

At the November Strasbourg Plenary MEPs backed an EU strategy to cut the number of work-related deaths and incidences of illness and injury.

We also called on it to emphasise the importance of proper training and to include better access to quality health and safety training, proper protections for those working with chronic or terminal illness, and screening systems for diseases caused by asbestos and other carcinogens.

It was disappointing but hardly surprising that Tory MEPs voted against.

EU action to on tax avoidance

While George Osborne in his Autumn Statement claimed £5 billion would come from 'measures on tax avoidance, evasion and imbalances', and £800 million would be invested 'in the fight against tax evasion', in Strasbourg his MEPs failed to support a report to stop big business from fiddling their tax responsibilities and calling for greater action to be taken against tax havens.
The proposals, backed by Labour MEPs were to ensure large multinationals in Europe pay their taxes in the countries where they make their profits and to publish information on their profits, taxes and activities in every country in which they operate. Labour MEPs have been calling for this measure for years so it can be known where multinationals make their money and where they pay their taxes.

National governments must stop using their tax policy as an incentive to attract foreign investors. We need greater transparency, increased cooperation and the political will to make a crackdown on tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance a reality.

The measures reflect the large public appetite for companies to pay their fair share of tax and prevent the £9 billion that is lost every year through tax fiddling in the UK alone. Voted through by MEPs the proposals now need the backing of national governments but with Tory MEPs voting against the measures they appear to have made their position clear.

Mobile workers’ rights and safety

In November S&D members in the transport committee of the European Parliament voted in favour of a resolution asking the European Commission and EU member states to take measures to ensure full monitoring and compliance with existing social legislation for workers in the mobile transport sector. Workers in this sector deserve their rights and safety guaranteed just like any other worker. The vote however, the vote was lost 22 to 24, with the EPP Group, the Liberals and ECR opposing the resolution.

EU unemployment rates

On a slightly more positive note, the EU unemployment rate for October was 9.3%, down from 10.1% in October 2014. This is the lowest rate recorded since September 2009. These figures are published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union.

Among the Member States, the lowest unemployment rates in October 2015 were recorded in Germany (4.5%), the Czech Republic (4.7%) and Malta (5.1%), and the highest in Greece (24.6% in August 2015) and Spain (21.6%).
The EU youth unemployment rate in October was 20.0% with the lowest rates in Germany (7.1%), Austria (10.4%), Denmark (10.9%) and the Netherlands (11.6%), and the highest in Greece (47.9% in August 2015), Spain (47.7%), Croatia (43.1% in the third quarter 2015) and Italy (39.8%).

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