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European Employers Oppose MSD Legislation

May 2, 2012
Nine employers' associations in Europe recently expressed their opposition to legislation on work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSD), calling the legislative initiative "neither necessary nor desirable."

The associations sent a March 26 letter to Antonio Tajani, vice president of the European Commission, and László Andor, the Social Affairs Commissioner, in advance of a Committee meeting on the socio-economic impact of a potential MSD directive. According to these association leaders, the directive would impose an unbearable administrative and financial burden upon companies, in particular small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and microenterprises.

The employers believe that legislation on MSD would cost businesses $3.7 billion Euro, 90 percent of which would fall upon SMEs. These figures are taken from an impact study conducted by Matrix, an external consultant.

According to The European Trade Union Institute, however, the employers do not address the widely recognized fact that the human and economic cost of MSD is higher than the alleged costs of better prevention. The European Commission recognizes that MSD are the top cause of absenteeism (half of all absences of over 3 days) and permanent inability to work (60 percent). According to some estimates, MSDs account for a cost equivalent to between 2.6 and 3.8 percent of Member States’ GNP.

The European survey on working conditions, conducted in 2010, reported that 46 percent of European workers were complaining of backache, and 43 percent had muscular pains in shoulders, neck and/or upper limbs.

A draft MSD directive has been under preparation at the Commission for a number of years. Since 2000, the European Parliament has asked the Commission to present a proposed directive, but progress is slow. The Commission drew up an initial draft directive in January 2010 and an official, proposed directive is expected in June 2012.

The nine associations that signed the letter include BusinessEurope; European Centre of Employers and Enterprises providing Public services (CEEP); European Builders Confederation (EBC); European Federation of Cleaning Industries (EFCI); The Association of European Chambers of Commerce and Industry (EUROCHAMBRES); The Retail, Wholesale and International Trade Representation to the EU (EUROCOMMERCE); European Construction Industry Federation (FIEC); Performing Arts Employers Associations League Europe (PEARLE); and The European Association of Craft, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (UEAPME).

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