Problems of the Working Environment and ‘Soft Law’ in New Member States
Current evidence suggests a deteriorating working environment in the new member states of Central and Eastern Europe.
This could be an important neglected dimension of current labour force ‘exit’ to older member states. Support for occupational health and safety regulation concerning the working environment appears to be limited among business and political elites in the new member states. This has created a lack of policy ‘reform fit’ between the ‘social dimension’ of a European social model and domestic agendas dominated by more ‘business-friendly’ free market considerations. The European Commission has also currently adopted assumptions concerning the need to ‘simplify’ the acquis, as well as advocating ‘soft law’ as an alternative to traditional regulatory instruments such as directives. However, the lack of contextual industrial relations supports—in particular, the power imbalance in industrial relations due to the weakness of trade unions and social dialogue on the workplace level—make prospects for ‘soft law’ as a strategy for working environment improvements in the new member state uncertain.