|Author (Person)||Coss, Simon|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.4, No.4, 29.1.98, p7|
|Content Type||Journal | Series | Blog|
LEADING lights in the European trade union movement will sit down next month to discuss the sort of changes they must make if they are to retain their influence in an increasingly fragmented labour market.
A two-day conference organised by the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) will bring together union leaders, scientific experts and researchers to discuss how trade unionism must modernise and adapt in the face of what the organisers call the "growing individualism and globalisation of society".
"Times are changing and we must change. We need new policies and structures which must be able to represent the needs of the new labour force," explained ETUC General Secretary Emilio Gabaglio.
"We must face reality. Reality is changing, but we need rules. We will always say 'no' to doing away with proper social conditions, but we should reform what needs to be reformed. The best approach is to abandon ideological debates and stick to pragmatic issues."
One of the biggest changes which the conference will look at is the growing number of people taking on 'white collar' or managerial jobs in the service sector. The ETUC argues that such workplaces should be seen as an equally important source of new Union members as the more traditional strongholds of Europe's 'blue collar' manufacturing industries.
"We cannot say that our affiliates continue to be only blue collar organisations. Now many are white collar and even managerial," said Gabaglio.
The ETUC's ranks include 4 million managers in the 'Eurocadres' union, and white collar workers now make up roughly 10% of the organisation's total membership.
Gabaglio also argues that trade unions need to rethink their approach to part-time workers, saying: "Part-time is recognised in Holland, for example, and our unions are recruiting many part-timers there."
One of the keynote speakers at the conference, which begins next Thursday (5 February), will be former European Commission President Jacques Delors, who in 1985 supervised the setting up of the modern EU social dialogue system, bringing together the ETUC, UNICE and CEEP. Since handing over the Commission presidency to Jacques Santer in 1995, Delors has not always been enthusiastic about the way Union social policy has developed.
When asked what he thought the ex-Commission president was likely to say at the conference, the ETUC general secretary was uncharacteristically tight-lipped. "I wouldn't dare to speak on his behalf," said Gabaglio.
Preview of ETUC conference on the challenges facing European trade unions, Brussels, 5-6.2.98.
|Subject Categories||Politics and International Relations|