The decision by Whirlpool to close its Naples site on 31 December 2020 to relocate its production to a place where wages are more competitive, despite an agreement with the Italian Government and despite receiving EUR 50 million in public subsidies since 2014, would be a tragedy for the 420 workers directly concerned and the 1 000 or so workers in associated businesses. This is happening in conjunction with the COVID-19 crisis, which has exacerbated the economic and social situation in an area which has already been severely affected in terms of employment.
Liberalisation policies, accompanied by the dismantling of measures to protect workers in the sector, have encouraged and increased factory relocations, whereby companies seek greater labour exploitation or more favourable tax conditions: the resources the EU provides to support the effects of globalisation are nothing but a palliative measure unless they are backed up by legislation to strengthen corporate social responsibility.
On 24 September 2020, Italian Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Mario Furore a Non-attached Member raised a written parliamentary question to the European Commission. MEP Furore asked the Commission “will it protect the jobs of workers at the Whirlpool factory in Naples?” and “will it ensure that, in the event of a relocation, multinational companies such as Whirlpool cover all costs and find alternative employment for the workers made redundant?”
Lastly, the Italian Representative enquired “does it intend to put forward any measures to tackle social and tax dumping in the EU in a comprehensive manner?”
On 18 November, Commissioner Nicolas Schmit, responsible for the Jobs and Social Rights, responded to this question on behalf of the European Commission. He stated that “the Commission does not intervene in the management decisions of privates companies, but promotes corporate social responsibility in the EU and encourages enterprises to adhere to international principles and to follow socially responsible management when restructuring”.
The Commissioner reported that “a number of Directives stipulate minimum requirements for the protection of workers and in the event of dismissals those affected are likely to qualify under European Social Fund (ESF) programmes for support in the search for new employment” and that “Cohesion policy, in general, has responded to the COVID-19 emergency, in particular via the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiatives and the recently amended ESF Campania Operational Programme includes support to employment”.
Commissioner Schmit further clarified that “The European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) can assist permanently dismissed workers to help them to find new employment” and that “the Commission proposed to broaden the scope of the EGF post-2020 to include redundancies caused by any unexpected major restructuring event”.
In closing, he concluded that “the issue of aggressive tax planning practices has been highlighted in six 2020 country-specific recommendations in the framework of the European Semester process and will have to be considered in the elaboration of the National Recovery and Resilience Plans”.
Photo Credit : https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fichier:New_logo_whirlpool.jpg