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ISSUE 66 page 2

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Unions and parliament at one on re-industrialisation

 JUST AS THE U.K. GOVERNMENT HAS CALLED for a ‘re-balancing’ to re-invigorate industry and manufacturing in the face of the dominant services and finance sector, the EU authorities are hoping for re-industrialisation as the economic situation improves. Industry still accounts for 80% of EU exports and 80% of private research while generating a €365 billion annual surplus on trade, particularly in high-technology products. In recently published reports both the European Commission and the European Parliament want to increase the share of wealth generated by industry; the Commission foresees it contributing 20% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2020 compared to 16% today. However the two documents have elicited different reactions from the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC). While the unions see ‘For a European Industrial Renaissance’, from the Commission, as having the right analysis in identifying the high value-added sectors of manufacturing for expansion they say that its failure to address either the means to finance this or the social dimension would, at best, deliver a ‘jobless recovery’.
EUIndustry
3.5 million posts have been lost in manufacturing since 2008. Although the report is right to blame low demand and investment in Europe for the continuation of the slump it ‘neglects to point out the root of both: the EU’s crisis management policy’, according to ETUC Deputy General Secretary Józef Niemiec, with its emphasis on austerity and cutting wages while failing to re-regulate the banks. Similarly the IndustriAll union federation comments: ‘The social dimension in this proposal that should underpin a productive industry and deliver education, training, social security and workers’ participation is barely touched upon’.
'Reindustrialising Europe to Promote Competitiveness and Sustainability’, the parliament’s contribution to the debate, has received a more positive reaction from European unions. Its desire to involve the workforce through training, skills and industrial democracy meets with approval as do the ‘clever synergies’ between concern for the environment and re-industrialisation suggested by the report. ‘All the challenges, economic, social, and environmental, must be dealt with at the same time through coherent and efficient policies’ says Ulrich Eckelmann, IndustriAll General Secretary.
Can industry lead the economic fightback?
 

 

 Links to reports mentioned on this page
For a European Industrial Renaissance is available at:
 Working conditions of young entrants to the labour market is available at:
  Young people and temporary employment in Europe can be found at:
Report warns on work conditions of young people
THE EUROPEAN FOUNDATION FOR THE IMPROVEMENT OF LIVING AND WORKING CONDITIONS recently published two reports examining the position of young people in the EU labour force. They confirm two generally held suppositions: unemployment is far higher among youngsters than among the general population and far more of those who have jobs are on temporary contracts. By mid-2013 23% of people under 24 were unemployed in the EU, among those aged 25 to 29 the rate was 14%, compared with 10.6% of adults aged between 15 and 64. Temporary employment is much commoner for under-24s with fully 42% of those with jobs in this position while only 10% of older workers are on similar contracts. Although many temporary employees were laid off when the current depression started in 2008 their use has picked up again as employers try to expand without committing themselves too much in an era of economic uncertainty.Of course such posts can be a stepping stone from full-time education into permanent employment but, given the current dearth of secure work, they can also trap young people in a succession of precarious positions.Although laws such as the EU’s Temporary Agency Workers directive should ensure equal treatment of temps, in practice young workers often lack sufficient contributions to qualify for unemployment, sickness and maternity benefits. They can also be prey to bogus self-employment in which employers avoid social contributions by treating their workers as suppliers of services who must pay their own. Certain groups of young people are more badly affected by these problems: female, younger, lower-qualified and non-native young workers employed in small enterprises have to contend with poorer employment and working conditions. Various new policies have been started by the EU and Member States to try to help such as the Youth Employment Package launched in December 2012 which aims to offer employment, education or training to all young people within four months of their leaving formal education or becoming unemployed. However the reports say that much more needs to be done. Measures to promote economic growth are recommended so that companies can expand and hire young workers, specifically tax breaks and wage subsidies should be used to persuade employers to recruit. The content of education and training should acknowledge the skills needed by industry with workplace training schemes and apprenticeships preferred. The social partners and governments have to work together to raise the quality of these new jobs in terms of pay, hours, contracts and health and safety as well as training. Finally the reports advocate special measures to help the excluded groups mentioned above.

Bargaining round-up

THE SOCIAL PARTNERS IN BELGIUM RECENTLY CONCLUDED an agreement on temporary work intended to cover both agency employees and direct contract workers. These ‘atypical’ forms of work have burgeoned over the last thirty years spreading from younger to older people and from blue- to white-collar jobs. During the same period the regulations have been made more flexible to promote employment and to incorporate the EU directive on Temporary Agency Work. Although unions are generally in favour of job growth in this form they want to maintain regulation of the sector. The new deal will permit the employment of agency workers only under certain circumstances such as the short-term replacement of an absent permanent worker, a sudden increase in workload or the creation of an artistic work. Certain sectors such as transport are excluded from this provision. The agreement prevents employers from engaging a series of temps in the same post by setting a nine-month maximum.
IN ESTONIA THE MINIMUM WAGE HAS HOVERED around the 30% mark as a proportion of the average salary, much lower than the EU’s recommended 60% of the national average monthly wage.  Between 2008 and 2011, in the depth of the economic slump, the employers’ confederation ETTK refused to negotiate any rise with the Estonian TUC, EAKL However, following the election of new leaders for both organisations last year, a two-year agreement was signed that will see increases of 10.9% in 2014 and 9.9% in 2015 bringing the monthly minimum up to €390. This represents 35.7% of the average wage, the highest it has ever been.
COAL MINING IS STILL A LARGE INDUSTRY IN THE Czech Republic with one company, OKD, employing 13,000 workers and in the top five hard coal producers in the EU. Faced with increased operating costs they recently announced job and wage cuts plus sales of assets. After 13 months of negotiations, including the rejection of the mediator’s proposals by the employer, mining unions gave notice of three planned strikes following a 90% majority in a ballot. Calculation of bonuses was a particular stumbling block but trade unions were also wary of redundancies in Moravia-Silesia, a region of high unemployment. Eventually a deal was done before the first strike day which did not tie the Christmas bonus to economic results as Jaromír Pytlík, Chair of the Association of Mining Unions (SHO) explained. ‘Instead of an uncertain wage increase of 4% being tied to the fulfilment of economic parameters, we have finally managed to negotiate guaranteed Christmas and holiday bonuses equal to six days’ average daily wage’. In return OKD envisage making a 4% reduction in the size of the work force.




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