EZA MAGAZINE

From Industry 4.0 to Energy 4.0: proactive social dialogue as the key factor in establishing a socially acceptable technological revolution, restructuring and transition in the European energy sector

From 16 to 18 October 2017 took place in Brussels, Belgium a seminar about “From Industry 4.0 to Energy 4.0: proactive social dialogue as the key factor in establishing a socially acceptable technological revolution, restructuring and transition in the European energy sector”, organized by BIE Int. (Bouw-Industrie & Energie International), with the support of EZA and of the European Union. The seminar war part of the EZA project coordination about “Digital world of work – technological developments and changes at the workplace”.

BIE International VZW has chosen this theme because the Industry 4.0 revolution cannot work without an important change in the energy supply that is needed by the industry. This has and will have an important impact on the type of jobs and skills needed in the European energy sector. By bringing together trade union representatives from 7 EU member states (Belgium, Germany, Spain, Bulgaria, France, Lithuania and Italy) and by providing presentations and interventions by specializes speakers BIE International VZW wanted to study and discuss the impact of a proactive social dialogue as the key factor in establishing a socially acceptable transition in the energy sector.

The seminar was opened by Pierre Cuppens (secretary general of the Belgian Trade Union Federation ACV-CSC Building-Industry-Energy) and Sylvain Lefebvre ( deputy secretary general of IndustriALL European Trade Union). Their presence showed the political interest of these representative organizations that are key role players in the social dialogue on national and European level. They emphasized the important role of the social dialogue to accompany the transition of the energy sector. Not only by investing in the new energy sector but also by accompanying the workers in the old energy sectors (e.g. the coal industry).

EZA Vice president Veselin Mitov opened the seminar and referred to the larger context, the digitalization of work. Mrs Jelena Soms, vice president of the Lithuanian trade union confederation introduced this item to the participants.

The opening was followed by an interesting and spicy debate on the energy policies of the EU and the member states. Ivo Belet (MEP, EPP), Sylvain Lefebvre (deputy secretary general of IndustriALL European Trade Union) and Luc Pauwels (VRT journalist and energy expert) debated on the urgency of a EU-approach to the subject. Mr John Vandaele (Mo-magazine journalist and energy expert) challenged the panelists to take position. The debate was opened and the participants actively exchanged visions on today’s realities in the EU energy sector and on the needs of tomorrow.

The afternoon was dedicated to an in depth exchange on the current state of the social dialogue in the EU-member states present at the seminar. Every delegation prepared a presentation which led to an intense exchange on the role of the social dialogue in the transition process. We’ve learned that the trade unions present are all open to a constructive social dialogue on the subject but that the social dialogue systems, that suffered heavily due to the EU and national policies after the financial crisis, need repair and strengthening to play their role completely.

The second day started with a very interesting presentation on the Deutsche Energie Wende by Dr Lutz Pscherer, president of the works council at 50 Hertz – the German grid provider. He made the impact of the transition on the workers in the energy sector visible and this based on real life experiences. Mr Bram Claeys, general director of the Flemish Organization for Durable Energy (ODE) added the views and visions of the sector of renewable energy sources to the debate. These 2 presentations were the fuel for an animated debate on the changes the sector and the workers involved are facing.

Mr Bob Van Passen, former secretary of the EWC at ENGIE introduced a best practice on proactive actions in a changing sector by presenting the European Social Agreement that has been negotiated by the representative European trade union federations EPSU, FETBB and IndustriALL. This agreement shows that the social dialogue does have an important role in the transition process.

The final presentation gave the floor to the employers’ vision. Mr Pascal De Buck, CEO of the Gas Transportation Company FLUXYS gave his view on future energy needs in the EU.

BIE International VZW succeeded to bring together all actors (politics, employers, trade unions) in the energy sector. The result was an interesting and successful seminar that has been evaluated very good by all participants.