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2013 - Better understanding of Arduous Occupations within the European Pension Debate

In 2013/2014, the EFBWW, in cooperation with the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and IndustriAll Europe, EPSU, ETF, UniEuropa and EFFAT, carried out a study with the financial assistance of the European Commission, entitled “Better understanding of Arduous Occupations within the European Pension Debate”, looking to assess the reality of arduous and hazardous work and trying to link this reality with a realistic and worker-friendly end-of career policy.

Five reference jobs were chosen for the study, namely a conveyor belt worker from the meat-processing industry, a bus driver from the public transport sector, a distribution worker from the combined sales and logistics sector, a metal blast furnace worker and a floor layer. The investigation was conducted in nine countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania and Spain.

The results of the study as well as the draft recommendations and decisions were discussed at a joint seminar in June 2014. The results of the study are available in ENGLISH, FRENCH, and GERMAN.

In addition to the technical results of the study, the report contains a Resolution, which was also discussed during the seminar and was subsequently amended. It is now up to the respective Federations (EFBWW, EFFAT, IndustriAll Europe, ETF, UniEuropa) and the ETUC to address the Resolution.

The main conclusion of the study - not really shocking news - is that arduous occupations are a reality and have a long term destructive impact on the physical and psychological wellbeing of the workers involved. The causes are complex and often linked to a multitude of factors, which are often difficult to influence.
This leads us to the second key conclusion, namely that prevention and workers employability are often not possible. Either because nobody is aware of the arduous nature of the occupation, because the long-term consequences are disregarded or because the arduous nature simply cannot be prevented and is part of the job.

The outcome of this study strongly contradicts the current EU-policy which has turned the principle of "increasing the effective retirement age and aligning the retirement age to changes in life expectancy" into a dogma and is pursuing its policy in all its binding national Council recommendations.

In its conclusions, the study clearly emphasises the necessity to:
(1) Strengthen and enforce preventive measures,
(2) Increase awareness and
(3) Implement workers re-employability, so that no worker is employed in an arduous or hazardous job.