Commission: Gifts of €6 billion and free trainees to ‘help’ poor employers

László Andor, Member of the European Commission in charge of Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion gave a Press conference on the EC proposal for a Council Recommendation on a Quality Framework for Traineeships. (EC Audiovisual Services, 4/12/2013).

László Andor, Member of the European Commission in charge of Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion gave a Press conference on the EC proposal for a Council Recommendation on a Quality Framework for Traineeships. (EC Audiovisual Services, 4/12/2013).

This newspaper feels fully vindicated after yesterday’s announcement issued by the European Commission, stating that the EU’s executive arm is proposing a Council recommendation which will institutionalise a Quality Framework for Traineeships. This was a badly needed decision in view of the upcoming application of the widely advertised €6 billion Youth Guarantee scheme, which promises to youths under 25, that after leaving school or becoming unemployed they will receive within four months an offer for a high-quality job, or an apprenticeship or a traineeship. Let’s follow the story from the beginning.

It is more than certain, that high-quality jobs are rather rare mainly in the south of Eurozone. The same is true for valuable real apprenticeships. As a consequence, the vast majority of the €6bn Youth Guarantee programmes would probably be spent on traineeships all over the 28 EU member states. Now, given the large appetite of many employers for European Union subsidies and the increased amounts being available for the Youth Guarantee, there are great risks that some firms will or have already ‘specialised’ in offering traineeships. In one way or another they manage to fulfil the typical requirements and at the end of the day, they will exploit and fool both the youths and the EU authorities.

Traineeship descriptions

The employers’ descriptions of the content and the remuneration of traineeships are usually so confusing that it is difficult to understand what exactly it is about. Experience has unfortunately proved that, this kind of ‘training’ has been rather the rule than the exception. The basic findings of a Eurobarometer survey published recently by the Commission are the following:
*Almost six out of ten trainees (59%) did not receive any financial compensation during their last traineeship. Among those who were paid, less than a half consider it was enough to cover basic living costs.
*Four out of ten trainees did not have a written traineeship agreement or contract with the host organisation or company.
*Almost one in three traineeships (30%) is substandard either with regards to learning content or working conditions. Close to 25% report that their working conditions were different from that of regular employees and 20% consider they have not learned anything professionally useful during their traineeship.

Trying to close the loopholes

Obviously the European Commission could not ignore its own findings. Consequently yesterday’s announcement by László Andor, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion was highly expected. He stressed that “Member States must ensure that trainees receive valuable training and experience to get a job. These proposed guidelines would enable trainees to acquire high-quality work experience under good working conditions”.

According to the same source, “The guidelines would increase transparency with regard to traineeship conditions, for example by requiring that traineeships be based on a written traineeship agreement. The agreement should cover learning content (educational objectives, supervision) and working conditions (limited duration, working time, clear indication whether trainees would be paid or otherwise compensated and whether they would qualify for social security). Indeed, traineeship providers would be asked to disclose in the vacancy notice whether the traineeship would be paid”.

For the requirements mentioned here above to be followed and applied in practice the crucial point is, if they would be compulsory or not. In the British ‘tradition’ everything is left to the good will of the employers. That’s why the British young graduates ended up training with the broom in cleaning jobs, with no payment at all in real slavery conditions. They are obliged to accept all that if they wanted to retain their meagre unemployment benefit. This was the infamous UK ‘training’ programme ‘back to work’, which was ruled as illegal by the British Supreme Court.

Protecting the employers not the youths

Despite the bad experience all over the European Union with quite figurative if not completely fraudulent training ‘schemes’, the Commission insists “that the proposal for a Council Recommendation on a Quality Framework for Traineeships would in particular call on Member States to ensure that national law or practice respects the principles set out in the guidelines, and to adapt their legislation where necessary”. The last phrase rather vaguely says that the Recommendations should become a part of national legislation. The previous sentence however, clearly states that the “Member States (have) to ensure that national law or practice respects the principles”. Nobody will choose ‘law’, everybody will run for ‘practice’.

Undoubtedly the Commission is well aware that its own Press release contains this huge loophole. Will the Recommendation be compulsory by law or not? It’s more that certain that the UK and some other ‘liberal’ countries’ representatives in the EU institutional bodies, have demanded that the application should be left to ‘practice’. If at the end this UK option is to prevail, the Youth Guarantee will be one more strategy only ostensibly designed to favour the young. In reality it will constitute an additional subsidy to some ‘trained’ for fraudulent application of the program employers.

In practice, the target will be to train the under 25 to do whatever job or task the employers want, of course without payment. Andor says that clearly, “Indeed, traineeship providers would be asked to disclose in the vacancy notice whether the traineeship would be paid”. Naturally, only the serious employers will offer payment, especially those who have real vacancies for trainees, particularly in the manufacturing SMEs. Unfortunately, the excess paper work needed to enrol has distanced the quality micro and small firms from the EU programmes. Instead it’s the ‘experienced’ who flourish with the Brussels money.

All that said, it’s very probable that the new training programmes financed at a cost of 6€bn to the EU taxpayer, will benefit again the vultures which have ‘specialised’ in exploiting the young and the unemployed, at the same time usurping the EU taxpayers’ money.

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