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Verbatim report of proceedings
Thursday, 11 February 2010 - Strasbourg OJ edition

Framework Agreement on prevention from sharp injuries in the hospital and healthcare sector (debate)

  Alejandro Cercas, on behalf of the S&D Group.(ES) Mr President, I would like to begin by also congratulating my colleague Mrs Lynne for the excellent work she has done in our committee, for her ability to reconcile all points of view and for the work that she has carried out over such a long time.

I congratulate Commissioner Andor. It is your second day Commissioner and you have made a good start to your job faced with your responsibilities. Furthermore, there is now also a second directive relating to microfinancing which has been of concern to this House for some time. You will also have the honour of resolving two problems in two days' time which will open up great possibilities for many Europeans. I also thank Commissioner Špidla for the help he has provided on this matter.

You have already been made aware, and I am not going to waste too much time in reminding you, that the framework agreement is a very important legal instrument for health workers. They are affected by more than one million accidents each year, which also implicate serious health risks, such as viral infections, hepatitis C, AIDS and so forth. However, this is not only of significance to health workers but also to hospital patients and their families. Essentially, millions of Europeans will be better protected by this instrument.

Thus, we have achieved this following a long journey which this House embarked upon by knocking on the doors of the Commission and the Council, and we must remember the excellent work done by Mr Hughes throughout this long process.

Perhaps I can briefly explain why the socialist MEPs are very pleased today. I feel that today is a day to mention a few things.

Firstly, the importance of health and safety in the workplace. It is crucial to create a work environment which is as safe as possible for workers, for families and for citizens. In human terms, we have already referred to all the implications of these types of injuries for workers and for citizens, but there are also implications in economic terms. A few days ago in this House, the Bilbao Agency spoke to us about some of the campaigns it is carrying out to promote health and safety and it even revealed economic studies which demonstrate that in Australia, for example, accidents and illnesses account for more than 6% of GDP in the national economy. What is the price paid for a lack of social security? What is the price paid for a lack of hygiene and safety in the workplace? It is therefore an investment in human capital, but also an investment in civilisation and economic terms.

Secondly, the importance of prevention, as prevention is better than cure. Action must be taken before incidents occur so as to prevent them. Prevention, which is a complex issue, requires increasing awareness, information, training and supervision in relation to each of these tasks.

Thirdly, it is vital to also mention at this stage the importance of social partners, the importance of trade unions. Without them this framework agreement would certainly not exist and neither would there be any kind of prevention. Sometimes people criticise trade unions and say that they are a cost to society but they forget the huge benefits which they provide, as they are the ones behind the introduction of such important policies in the workplace such as those within the framework agreement.

Finally, I must mention the importance of this House, which must defend its position before public opinion and before other Community institutions, because without Parliament this framework agreement would not exist, and the importance of Parliament’s cooperation with the Commission and the Council has also been exemplary. I appreciate the Spanish Presidency's support and I hope that this will serve as a good precedent for a new phase of cooperation between our institutions.

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