Today, the Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament managed to get important guarantees from the European Commission on workers’ health and safety at their workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic. High standards of protection, strict monitoring of implementation and a rapid assessment of the need to revise the Biological Agents Directive dating from 2000 were today pledged by the Commission. This move comes after the S&Ds had last week sounded the alarm-bells on a Commission decision to classify SARS-CoV-2 as a level 3 biological agent, instead of putting it as the highest risk category.
Agnes Jongerius, S&D MEP and spokesperson for employment, said:
“The Commission agreed to add important safeguards that will better protect workers from contracting COVID-19. Nurses, grocery clerks, drivers and cleaners are risking their health and lives on a daily basis to keep our societies connected and going. We owe essential and frontline workers more than applause; we must keep them safe at their workplace. The Commission has pledged to push member states to implement high standards of protection and monitor its implementation through inspectors. Employers will have to inform workers in writing of all the precautionary and safety measures, thereby ensuring better protection, transparency and accountability.
“It was a dangerous decision to classify COVID-19 as only a mid-level threat, totally disregarding the implications for health and safety at work. This shows that the Biological Agent Directive must be revised urgently as it does not take into account the situation of a pandemic. It is unacceptable that anonymous experts take decisions without disclosing their reasoning and that in a situation when every hour counts, member states are only given 5 months to put protective measures in place. We welcome that the Commission today promised to assess the need for a revision without delay. We will fight for a revision to make the directive more democratic, transparent and up to the challenges of a pandemic.”
“We thank Commissioner Schmit and the Commission for their cooperation. Only together can we ensure the best protection for workers throughout Europe."
Note to the editor:
Commissioner Nicolas Schmit today read-out the additional safeguards to better protect workers before the vote in the employment committee, after which the S&D Group withdrew their objection to the classification of SARS-CoV-2 as a level 3 biological agent. After the formal adoption by the Commission College next Wednesday, the text will be published in the official journal, attached to the legislative act itself.