Dec 13, 2021 Europe Etuc

The usual mid-term conference of the European Trade Union Confederation this time was held in Lisbon with limited presential participation due to the Covid 19 pandemic situation. At the same time, the organizers also left the option of online involvement (hybrid) for those who could not travel to the event.

November 8, 2021
The mid-term conference is traditionally held in between congresses (every four years) of the ETUC in particular to evaluate the work of the Secretariat in the middle of the cycle, review the implementation of the tasks assigned at the previous Congress and carry out preparatory work for example in connection with the amendment of the Articles of the Constitution.

The conference was opened by Laurent Berger, President of the ETUC. He highlighted how difficult was the 18 months beyond this period during which the ETUC was not convened in person, that made certain tasks more difficult, but they tried to adapt to the changing situation in the midst of the problems caused by the Covid 19 crisis, to represent
interests of workers across Europe.

The heads of the host two major Portuguese confederations, Isabel Camarinha, Secretary-General of the CGTP-IN and Carlos Silva, Secretary-General of the UGT-P gave a welcome speech.

On the evening of the first day, indicative votes took place in the ETUC Statutory Committee
on proposals for amendments to the Constitution prepared by the Committe since the 2019 Vienna Congress. These indicative votes have only a kind of guidance role, indicating to the Commission that the desired consensus or majority support is available for each proposed amendment. A
final decision may be made at the next Congress to amend the Constitution. The polls were conducted through a newly developed online voting system.
The amendments were tabled by Luca Visentini, Secretary General of the ETUC, the individual amendments were presented by the rapporteurs.

Before the voting in his two speeches the Secretary General of FERPA, Agostino Siciliano explained the importance of FERPA ‘s voting rights, with which it could contribute more effectively to the work of the ETUC. The non-granting of voting rights discriminates against the elderly and retirees, and therefore asked the Congress to approve the organizational change required to grant FERPA the voting rights. FERPA supports young people and, for a particularly important part, the work for the equality of women, which greatly helps to improve the financial and other situation of older women.

Among other things, a vote was taken to introduce a potential youth quota that would guarantee that all delegations of 4 or more must have young participants under the age of 35 in the ETUC Congress. More than 75% of the voting organizations supported the amendment.
However, the amendment proposed by FERPA, which would give a vote for the representative of the pensioners in the ETUC Executive Committee, was supported by only 45% of voters.

November 9, 2021
The grand opening took place on the morning of the second day. Dr. Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, President of Portugal greeted the members of the ETUC in a video message, while the Mayor of Lisbon, Dr. Carlos Moedas and Dr. Ana Mendes Godinho, Minister responsible for labor and social affairs in Portugal personally welcomed the participants of the conference.

ETUC Secretary General Luca Visentini opened the mid-term conference with a very inspiring speech. Excerpts:

“The mid – term conference of the ETUC will provide an opportunity to take stock of what was adopted by Congress on the results achieved in decisions and strategies. But this time it’s about more.
As it will take place after the COVID epidemic, this mid-term conference should be an opportunity give us to shape the future of the European world of work and to give trade unions strength and increase its influence in tackling the huge challenges we face. It’s time to take responsibility and act – we demand that all institutions and employers be consistent
with what they did in Porto. ”

“In this context, as trade unions, we will proactively participate in the public consultation launched by the Commission on the review of the budgetary rules. This review is the most decisive and difficult political battle ahead of us next year. We have many opponents and we must make our voices heard to win. In today’s and tomorrow’s debate, you have to discuss a proposal that is an ambitious union campaign review of European economic governance, austerity measures and creating a fairer, more sustainable and inclusive economic model.”

The full speech is available here in English:
https://www.etuc.org/en/speech/opening-speech-luca-visentini-etuc-general-secretary-etuc-midterm-conference-lisbon

The future and unity of the ETUC
The first topic discussed was the future and unity of the ETUC. For better presentation some innovations introduced on the ETUC website that have made it clearer and easier to use.
Among other things, a “join the union” page was inserted with contact details for all member organizations: https://www.etuc.org/en/join-union.
Contributors from member organizations highlighted various issues in their speeches. Including but not limited to some of the areas mentioned are:
– The presence of trade unions on social media needs to be strengthened to reach as many people as possible to air our messages across.
– There is a need to strengthen the national social partners, e.g. transposition of regulations at EU level so that they can act more effectively.
– The importance of solidarity.
– Research and training have a key role to play in the movement of the future.
– Red tape must be reduced.
– Shorter resolutions are needed, less on “how” and more on “why” concentrate.
– In the case of national cases, the ETUC should consult the with member organizations in the country concerned.
– Consensus should be sought in decision-making rather than majority decisions.
– Joint campaigns have a positive role to play in improving the image of trade unions.

 

A fairer Europe for workers: How to strengthen trade unions, let us shape and defend democracy, shape the work of Europe’s future sustainable transformation and strengthen workers’ and human rights. The second topic was chaired by Isabelle Schmann, ETUC Confederal Secretary. She highlighted that if we consider fundamental democracy which is a cornerstone of the European Union’s governance model, model of trade unions for the protection of workers and social and economic policies (labor market and industrial policies, including climate change policies) key institutional actors, we need to address the following key challenges: redesigning the EU after a pandemic; a more sustainable and inclusive economy structure; fair management of labor market changes caused by climate and digital change; the strengthening the role of trade unions in decision-making; amending the EU Treaty and the so-called introduction of a social development protocol; how to strengthen democracy in the EU countries and fight against the far right advancing The comments also mentioned various topics:
– The far right must be stopped because it is a threat to Social Europe realization.
– Strengthen the process of implementing the European Pillar of Social Rights.
– The ETUC should help member organizations to engage in social dialogue and collective bargaining related and enforcing their information consultation rights.
– Inequalities are growing across Europe, and the task of trade unions is not easy as we can only react to changes in the labor market rather than we are the initiators of the processes.
– The ETUC should strongly present the views of the Conference on the Future of Europe consultation series.
– We cannot allow decision-makers to return to a policy of austerity.
– The situation of women needs to be promoted, the ETUC needs to do more to promote equalopportunities in order to achieve this.
– ETUC member organizations should recognize each other’s members, a transnational unionmembership card would need to be introduced.
– Democracy is in danger across Europe, but unions must insist on principles of social democracy and must fight for this to happen in the Member States.

November 10, 2021
In the morning of the third day, the next topic of discussion was the post – crisis economic and social crisis and labor market situation. In this connection, Claes-Mikael Stahl, Deputy Secretary-General, responsible for the subject, stressed the importance of reviewing what unions can do in a sustainable, fair and for an inclusive recovery process that can bring real benefits to workers and society. In his view, unions are part of the solution, not the problem. Confederal Secretary Lina Carr outlined the effects of Covid 19 on society. The pandemic brought about the great social disparities, shortcomings in social care systems, often the worst paid workers have struggled to survive, and many have lost their work. The ETUC and its member organizations have sought these insights for the benefit of employees to be used in their negotiations and to ensure that the support from the Stability and Growth Pact Member States cn build a more sustainable, greener, worker-friendly future.

Contributors from member organizations made the following suggestions:
-The number of working hours per week should be reduced without leading to a reduction in wages.
– It is inevitable that we tackle the climate crisis, as its effects are on the rise affecting theemployees. We need to ensure a fair transition to where the workers’ rights are not violated.
– Workers’ right to training, retraining, further training and lifelong learning is an important precondition for ensuring a fair transition.
– Collective bargaining should ensure that all EU workers are covered.
– Trade unions need to follow workers’ careers and actively help in order to develop and maintain them, e.g. due to through operation of advisory systems.
– Creating the possibility of compulsory vaccination can be a serious problem for some workers.
– The Covid 19 crisis has also provided an opportunity to rethink the rules of the world of work, to reassess the situation of workers and concentrate to certain particularly sensitive groups.
– The organization of platform workers has become a priority during the crisis, e.g. food delivery couriers.
– We cannot let the policy of austerity return.

The power of persuasion and the persuasion of power
Deputy Secretary-General Esther Lynch and Confederate Secretary Ludovic Voet, whose subjects were highlighted as this:
How can we strengthen the European trade union movement to achieve our goals? How to ensure that the trade union movement remain representative and relevant: union membership and influence in the light of the demographic challenge and the double transition.
On the last topic, the speakers addressed the following issues:
– Have regional trainings that focus on the problems of a given region.
– PRs prepared in advance by the ETUC and used by member organizations are very usefulmaterials in which only the text needs to be translated and rewritten.
“We need more allies to be stronger and better able to lobby.”
– We need to communicate our successes better.
– On the issue of representativeness, an important decision was that the majority supported the introduction of a youth quota, as young people must also be adequately represented in the trade unions.
– In his speech, President FERPA Lajos Mayer outlined the importance of representing the interests of older people and pensioners in Europe, as this age group represents around 23% of the Union’s population. They are most affected by the Covid 19 pandemic,that is why the very important Manifesto, adopted by the FERPA Mid Term General Assembly, deals extensively with proposed solutions to problems affecting the elderly, like the proposed long term care to be a European human basic right. He regretted that somemembers of the ETUC Mid Term Conference did not find it important to give FERPA the right to vote in the ExCo.
– The Covid 19 crisis has shown who the essential workers are. Their situation at the end of the epidemic should remain important. It is not enough to share knowledge, we also need power. For example, in the Eastern European region, the collective coordination of negotiations would be needed.
– In order to strengthen organizational strategies, it would be important to re-establish the adhoc Organizing Committee, which should pay special attention to vulnerable groups, women and to organize young people.

In his closing remarks, Secretary-General Luca Visentini praised the quality of the comments, which were useful proposals for the next 1.5 years of the Secretariat’s work. The hybrid format and online voting system is also well-tested, but it is hoped that by the end of the epidemic there will be more possibility of holding personal meetings. Because of the lack of technical conditions for hybrid participation in Brussels, the next EXCO meeting will definitely be online.