Balance between flexibility and security for the workers, using Belgium, Denmark and Hungary as an example

Europees Forum organized from 19 to 21 February 2010 a seminar on “Balance between flexibility and security for the workers, using Belgium, Denmark and Hungary as an example” in Budapest, Hungary.

Social Security must continue in our security and provide for a large social safety net. The big European market is by the workers rather perceived as a threat. The workers particularly fear for their security. Since the economic unification the social security has also become a factor in the costing of the companies. We study the European reality. We wish to do this in close collaboration with employee organizations from the north and central Europe.

At this seminary, the reality of the social security and the new trends which we need to consider shall be examined by three types of regions. The future challenges for the various social security systems are formulated.

VISIT TOT SZEMEREY TRANSPORT IN MISKOLC

The company has a warehouse with cold storage, logistics processing and handling, with a surface of 4500 m². It started as a private company 20 years ago together with the start of political changes in the country. Currently, it is a listed company, with 650 trucks between 1 and 24 tonnes, with employment of 1000 people spread over different regions of the country and specialized in national transport (growth in the market, especially in international transport, but nowadays also highly subjected to the crisis). They also have to deal with the crisis. In answer to this, the company has reduced costs (saving on staff, administration and fuel) and has raised the efficiency (by means of a better organisation). The economic crisis makes it harder to also pay attention to the social side.

The Transport Union: the Union was founded in 1991 and has currently 490 member organisations, spread all over the 18 regions across the country (there are over 9000 transport companies in Hungary). Service includes legal advice to the members both at a local, regional as well as sectoral level. The Transport Union is affiliated with a national Christian Confederation which supports the Union at the court. The Union can count on their solidarity at demonstrations and strikes and their support in the training of workers and militants. The Union is also affiliated with an international and European Confederation through which they can benefit (immediate support) from the services of an interpreter, hospitalization and legal support in court in case employees have problems in a foreign country.

INTRODUCTION TO THE SEMINAR

This seminar is organized by the European Forum, represented by the three regions of ACW in West Flanders, in Belgium. ACW is the ”Umbrella” (overall organisation) of the Christian Workers’ organisation in West Flanders which counts 4000 professionals and 1000 volunteers in different sectional organisations. In collaboration with EZA, we submitted a project concerning flexicurity following our program of the year: ‘Social Security’.

Social Security is of essential importance for us and for all employees to maintain a certain degree of wealth in different situations based on social redistribution. We wanted to confront our own reality with the reality of other European Countries and see if we were able to learn something from each other around the future challenges of flexibility and social security, especially in these times of crisis.

GENERAL INTRODUCTION

“Balance between flexibility and security, the challenges in Europe”, presentation by Julia Rieck, EZA

Flexicurity is an attempt to unit two fundamental needs: flexibility (for the employer) and security (for the worker). There is no standard notion nor definition to define the term flexicurity. Flexicurity is ‘custom’: there is not one model that can be applied in all countries (custom). Different models can be made based on a matrix: high flexicurity together with high security is the best model. For a flexible model, we need to have good answers both on the labor market as well as on the level of social security.

“THE FLEXICURITY IN A CONTEXT OF CRISIS”, presentation by Daniel Navas Vega, Italy

The presentation gives an overview of and gives an insight into the initial scenario of flexicurity, concepts, principles, conditions and requirements of flexicurity, the new scenario of the financial and economic crisis and answers to the question “What can we do?”

Conclusions:  We need to address the issue of the new scenario of global crisis, promote the social dialogue, actively participate in the labor market reform that the new scenario requires, find a creative combination of new labor policies and strenghten our presence as valid social actors

“DANISH FLEXICURITY, MORE FLEXIBLE THAN SECURE”, presentation by Peter Klindt, Centre for Labour Market Studies (CARMA) of the Aalborg University in Denmark

The Danish model, which is seen by Europe is an example, is under pressure. Not only due to the crisis, but also to the political and ideological pressure (liberals: work-fare instead of learn-fare and lack of maintenance of income security); some realizations have the opposite effect. The involvement of social partners is also decreasing!

“EZA-PROJECT: THE WORKERS AND THE FINANCIAL CRISIS”, presentation by Michaël Schwartz

This is an action program from EZA in collaboration with Hiva (Belgium), CNV (Netherlands), F.N.Coresi (Italy) en FLC (Romania).

Aim and expected outcomes:

Analysis of the regional differences, Evaluation of the regional measures taken, Identification of successful structural measures, to recover from the crisis, to prevent future crisis, Future strategies of the workers’ movement, Recommendations for social partners and the European Commission, The preliminary results were prepared yesterday, and will be further refined and elaborated in the near future.

SITUATION IN HUNGARY by Dr. Czuglerne Ivany Judit, Mosz

Hungary was already in crisis before the crisis: as a result, the country had little or no means to respond in an adequate way. The measures that had been taken, served more to control state budget, than to create work. The relationship between employers’ organisations and workers’ organisations had not been so good in the past. The demand for flexibility from the workers has been increasing and less security is offered; on the contrary: workers have been deprived of some of the hard-won rights by the crisis. The resources used are not efficiently. The entire system works for the benefit of the employer and the state; the employers are not sanctioned in case of non-compliance.

“SOCIAL SECURITY: THE BELGIAN MODEL AND ITS CHALLENGES”, presentation by Luc Goutry, member of the Belgian Federal House of representatives

We got a summary of het basic principles of Belgian Social Security en its current challenges which are: modernization of the system, avoiding over-demand, balance insurance-redistribution, ‘safety net’ is not ‘a hammock’, aging problem, health care problem, problem of state reform in Belgium.

BELGIAN SOCIAL SECURITY: ONE OF THE HIGHEST ACHIEVING SYSTEMS IN THE WORLD

Solidarity ó Privatization

Redistribution ó Insurance

Equal access ó Risk selection

Contribution according to ability to pay ó Highest payer gets most

The mechanics of our system are perfect. The application demands continuous adjustment. Always by social dialogue!

CONCLUSIONS OF THE SEMINAR

It is important to be aware of the real situation of the different European countries. We have concluded that we are hard hit by severe interventions in certain countries, for example in Hungary.

It is necessary to modernize the social security systems. This is the only way to maintain the basis of the system, solidarity, for the most vulnerable groups.

It is important to strengthen social partnership. We cannot expect the state to solve the current problems alone as at the moment the most important task of the state is the solution of financial problem.

We should emphasize the development of education/training and lifelong learning. We should also focus on the quality of employment and career building. The rapid re-integration and entrance into the labour market are important factors. We should pay attention to balancing work and family. We should reduce and limit growing flexibility in employment. The present crisis has not been caused by workers.