Choose a country to take your mouse,clicking on most will show an article on that country
THE EUROPEAN YOUTH GUARANTEE WAS LAUNCHED IN April last year to a fanfare of approval (see issue 62). With €6 billion and a commitment to offer good quality employment, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship to all under-25s the measure gained support from Socialist MEPs as well as the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC). However some sixteen months later both groups are thoroughly disillusioned with its progress. Touched off by the cancellation of a summit in July, at which EU Member States were supposed to consider progress, the six federations allied to the ETUC lambasted the current holder of the EU presidency, Italy, and other ministers for lack of political will. According to the unions the meeting was cancelled because ‘European politicians are ashamed of the dismal results’ of the programme. Youth unemployment remains on a mass scale while most of the European economy is still in recession. The federations want the funding available for the Youth Guarantee increased to €21 billion and enforcement mechanisms initiated to make sure that Member States spend the money. They also advocate direct measures such as greater investment in new, quality jobs.
The European parliament echoed some of these concerns in one of its last debates before the Summer break. It adopted a resolution calling for increased funds, the extension of the Guarantee to all those under thirty and a legal framework enforcing minimum standards for implementation. Although unions welcomed these initiatives they deplored moves to demand more mobility and flexibility from young people while expecting their parents to cover unemployment expenses. The ETUC federations will now meet the newly-elected parliamentary groups while continuing with flash mobs, demonstrations, press conferences and newspaper articles as part of their campaign to ‘reclaim the rights of Europe’s youth’.
SERBIAN UNIONS HAVE HELD A ONE-DAY GENERAL STRIKE to protest at new laws which will reduce holiday, severance and seniority pay as well as raising the retirement age for women and curtailing collective bargaining. Trade unions are also worried about public sector companies where wages and social benefits are overdue. It is thought that the newly-elected government aims to privatise as many as possible in its drive to bring down public debt and attract investment which, it says, will bring down unemployment. After parliament voted heavily in favour of the amendments to the Labour Act union activists promised to collect the 100,000 signatures needed to trigger a referendum that could reverse the legislation. ‘I expect we will have half a million in a short period of time’ said Ljubisav Orbovic.
HUNGARIAN UNION FEDERATIONS AND EMPLOYERS’ GROUPS have a tradition of negotiating ‘framework agreements’ to establish trust and confidence. However these have not always led to actual deals at company level. Now the Democratic League of Independent Trade Unions (LIGA), which concentrates on grass-roots representation and political protests, has concluded agreements with MGYOSZ, the largest employers’ association, and VOSZ, the National Association of Entrepreneurs and Employers, as well as two other sectoral groups. Istvan Gasko, President of LIGA, said the federation’s aim was to cooperate with as many employers’ associations as possible because the government was not supportive enough of social and trade union organisations.
AN AGREEMENT REACHED BY UNIONS AND MANAGEMENT at the Italian airline Alitalia, which will open the way to investment by Etihad Airways, has been thrown into doubt by the failure of a vote by union members to reach a quorum. The Abu Dhabi company had promised €560 million in exchange for a 49% stake in Alitalia but had demanded job cuts amounting to 2,251 redundancies. Trade unions managed to negotiate this figure down to 1,653 though the CGIL federation did not accept this. Rivals UIL did not agree to associated salary reductions and boycotted a referendum held for all workers at the company in an effort to ‘have clarity’. However as only about 3,500 employees out of a total 13,200 union members cast a vote, the outcome did not help. UIL, who had planned a separate vote, believes that new negotiations with the company are called for while the third main union federation, CISL, takes the opposite view. ‘About 30% of voters in 25 hours with over 80% in favour’ said CISL’s transport sector leader Giovanni Luciano via Twitter. ‘Quorum not reached, agreement valid’. The Italian government urged all unions to accept the deal: ‘It's either the future - or the abyss’ said Transport Minister Maurizio Lupi.