The Guest Blog

Guest blog post by Oliver Roethig, UNI Europa Regional Secretary.

When the European Commission introduced its ‘Better Regulation Agenda’’ in May last year, for a moment I allowed myself to think this could actually lead to better law-making for all. Then suspicion settled in.

The agenda claimed to ensure that the design of European law and policies is effective and benefit the most people and businesses – it claims that EU legislation is burdensome, that it has to be simplified and cost less.

Although all this sounded fine, before long the European labour movement noticed a worrying trend. Since its introduction, the European Commission has used the agenda to justify stalling important social legislation – for example regarding gender equality and worker’s rights and standards. This is why, shortly after the introduction of the agenda, UNI Europa initiated the creation of the Better Regulation Watchdog, which now encompasses 65 European and national organisations.

Although I agree that European law-making could at times be more dynamic, transparent and efficient – ‘Better Regulation’ does not necessarily always mean less regulation. It has become very clear to us that the Commission expertly wields the agenda to hold back important policies, it makes EU decision-making less democratic, it actually adds red tape and works in favour of big business – and against people.

For four years, UNI Europa has worked tirelessly towards an agreement on hairdressers’ health and safety but the Commission keep stalling. Throughout the process, the agreement has been mocked by the Commission. The EC has gone so far as to making an example out of it in a recent publication, stating that the ‘EU must not be big on small things.’ But this is not small – we are talking about the health and safety of hundreds of thousands of hairdressers who are at risk for a number of serious diseases due to their occupation.

But serious as this is, in the end it’s not only about hairdressers – what we fear is that they are one of the first groups of many to suffer due to the lack of the Commission’s commitment to social legislation. First they come for the, mostly young and female, hairdressers but who’s next?

We have shown the European Commission patience – we have played by their rules and jumped through one bureaucratic hoop after another – but we can no more stand idly by. This is why in combination with our continued efforts as social partners at the negotiation table we launched the campaign ‘Better Regulation – It really isn’t’. The campaign showcases the Commission’s neoliberal practices and make it clear to them that this will not stand. Join the campaign, help us push back and sign our petition at, and share your thoughts on social media using the hashtag #NotBetter.

UNI Europa is the European trade union federation for 7 million services workers in sectors that constitute the backbone of economic and social life in Europe. Headquartered in the heart of Brussels, UNI Europa represents 272 national trade unions in 50 countries, including: Private Care and Social Insurance, Commerce, Financial Services, Gaming, Graphical and Packaging, Hair and Beauty, Information Technologies and Communication, Media, Entertainment and Arts, Postal Services and Logistics, Property Services: Industrial Cleaning and Private Security, Professional Sport and Leisure and Temporary Agency Workers.

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