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|THE COUNCIL OF EMPLOYMENT MINISTERS FROM THE EU MEMBER STATES recently took the latest step in the long march towards remedying the appalling situation of young people over much of the Community. Under the Youth Guarantee they committed themselves to putting in place measures to ensure that young people up to the age of twenty-five receive a good quality offer of employment, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship within four months of leaving school or becoming unemployed. The guarantee requires EU countries to establish strong partnerships with schools and universities, training providers, employment services, social partners and career guidance providers so that they may intervene positively in the lives of young people. As well as the general European Social Fund, regions where youth Fund, regions where youth unemployment is higher than 25% can make use of €6 billion set aside by the Youth Employment Initiative for the period from 2014 to 2020. It is estimated that the cost of doing nothing, with nearly a quarter of those aged between 16 and 25 officially unemployed, is €153 billion, more than the entire EU annual budget. The European Commission President||
José-Manuel Barroso commented ‘Too many young Europeans are asking if they will ever find a job or have the same quality of life as their parents … I call on Member States to translate this agreement into concrete action as swiftly as possible'. Reaction to the initiative was generally positive: ETUC Deputy General Secretary Patrick Itschert called it ‘a step in the right direction‘ while Hannes Swoboda, the leader of the Socialists & Democrats (S & D) group in the European Parliament, declared ‘The youth guarantee will offer a fresh start for millions of young people’ and asked for it to be extended to everybody under 25 and recent graduates younger than 30. Caveats concerned linking the new initiative to permanent jobs: ‘The success of youth guarantees is highly dependent on other public policies in place, i.e. apprenticeships, traineeships. We cannot afford to lose a generation’ said the director of EU labour think tank Eurofound and Mr. Itschert cautioned ‘The real problems nonetheless remain job creation and quality jobs. For that, investments and a social contract are needed’.
EU Commission President Barroso, ETUC’s Patrick Itschert and S & D leader Swoboda
TURKISH UNIONS CONTINUALLY FACE problems with recognition (see issue 60 and many past), often with subsidiaries of worldwide multi-national companies. Turkey produces textiles and leather goods for many fashion brands so it was in Istanbul’s main shopping street that protesters gathered to highlight the systematic discrimination, intimidation and dismissals by the DESA and ISMACO companies of Deri-Is trade union members. Prada, Mıu Mıu, Marks and Spencer, Mulberry, Burberry, Whistles and Nicole Farhi are all supplied by DESA while ISMACO pays production workers €380 a month to manufacture Ermenegildo Zegna shirts that sell for €500. Despite a court judgement ruling that DESA had sacked 34 workers merely for joining the union, the company preferred to pay them off rather than re-instate while over at ISMACO four dismissed workers have been picketing since December. Deri-Is Assistant General Secretary Kemal Özkan, said ‘This kind of action will continue in the coming days until both companies change their unacceptable attitudes’.
INSTANCES OF UNPAID WAGES HAVE DOGGED industrial relations in Bulgaria for many years but always seem to increase in number during economic crises. Recently many strikes and protests have taken place across the economy, including at state-owned enterprises, over irregular payments; it is thought that the government owes private industry €233 million. However this is dwarfed by the €27 billion owed by companies to workers, the banks and the government. A Labour Inspectorate investigation found 13,300 violations of wage regulation in the first ten months of last year. Despite an agreement negotiated by the CITUB and CL Podkrepa union federations and a change to the Trade Act to bring it into line with the European Directive to Combat Late Payments CITUB President Plamen Dimitrov believes that the problems are far from being solved.
GERMANY IS OFTEN LAUDED AS THE country where workers have made sacrifices to ensure the ‘competitiveness’ of the economy but pressure for pay rises seems to be building up following the period of restraint. Teachers and child care workers recently went on a nationwide strike organised by the ver.di public sector and GEW educational trade unions in pursuit of a 6.5% salary increase for 800,000 employees as airport security staff were called out by ver.di to demand a 30% rise. Ver.di says that most of the security workers are in the lowest pay bracket at €8.23 an hour. ‘As long as no new offer is on the table, our only choice is to apply maximum pressure’ ver.di negotiator Andrea Becker said.
LITTLE LIECHTENSTEIN, AN ALPINE PRINCIPALITY lying between Austria and Switzerland, does not often make the news but trade union activities continue there including a recent agreement on part-time working, family-friendly policies and equal opportunities concluded by the social partners. Over 9,000 workers will benefit.