Age diversity management – challenges for and expectations of the social partners

From 23 to 25 May 2018 took place in Warsaw, Poland, a seminar about “Age diversity management – challenges for and expectations of the social partners”, organized by the National Commission of NSZZ "Solidarność", with the support of EZA and of the European Union. It was part of the EZA academic-practical project series about “Strategies of European institutions – Capacity building.

The seminar was attended by 51 representatives of workers’ organizations from the Netherlands, Slovakia, Lithuania, Hungary, Belgium, Austria, Poland, Great Britain and Spain.

The seminar was opened by Józef Mozolewski (Vice President of EZA, President of Podlaski Region of NSZZ "Solidarność"). In his opening speech he stressed that age management is not a choice but a necessity.

Józef Niemiec (Special Advisor at the European Trade Union Confederation, ETUC) presented the European Commission's Report on Employment and Social Developments in Europe (ESDE 2017), which on the one hand indicates good economic results and an increase in employment and on the other hand, the Report shows a changing labor market. Changes entail inter alia an increase in temporary contracts, and, high unemployment among young employees. The situation of young people poses a threat to the future of a just and solidarity-based socio-economic model. He stressed that if we want to improve the labor market - integrity and intergenerational solidarity - a multi-directional strategy is needed. Here, the social dialogue has a decisive role to play.

The presentation of national experiences related to labor market policy for age management was made by invited representatives of the scientific community: Matt Flynn (prof. University of Hull, England) and Izabela Warwas (prof. Lodz University, Poland) implementing the project" Active ageing through Social Partnership and Industrial Relation in Europe ASPIRE" and trade union representatives: Milan Toth (Vice President ZO NKOS USSKE, Slovakia), Lucian Vasilescu (CNSLR Fratia, Romania) and Martin Hermoso (UGT, Spain).

A common feature of national labor markets was emphasized in the country reports: the emergence of a generational gap and the surprise of employers of "ageing of the staff", as well as the involvement of all stakeholders for active age management policy, taking into consideration and meeting the needs of older and young employees.

Attention was paid to different situations on labor markets related to age management resulting, among others, from the consequences of the crisis and subsequent structural reforms, cultural differences and the role of women in social life. It was emphasized that even if there is a policy of age management, the reality indicates insufficient actions and low durability of the initiatives undertaken in the field of active aging and solidarity between generations.

Since, this project was part of an academic-practical education and training project on ‘Strategies of European Institutions – capacity building’, Dr Karin Schönpflug (Institute for Advanced Studies in Vienna) presented the research project on ‘capacity-building for social dialogue: workers’ organizations in a changing world’. From the presentation, an interesting picture emerged of the effects of an ageing population. She stressed that the current situation is a challenge for workers' organizations and it is important to involve union members in activities that prepare jobs for older workers and promote synergy resulting from the potential of the older generation as well as young employees in the work environment.

Juliane Bir (advisor ETUC) described the process of reaching the autonomous social partner framework agreement on Active Aging and Intergenerational Approach signed on 8/03/2017. She stressed the importance of this agreement. The contract was signed after 7 years of stagnation in the European social dialogue. It contains a clause stating that if in individual countries the social partners do not implement the provisions of the contract, after 4 years the European partners will evaluate the progress of implementation. Earlier agreements did not contain such records.

The discussion panel of social partners dealing with the conditions for the implementation of the European social partner Framework agreement on Active Ageing in Poland was attended by: Bogusława Urbaniak (prof. Lodz University, Poland), Olga Scott (expert, Pracodawcy RP, Poland), Edyta Doboszyńska (expert, Polish Craft Association ZRP), Renata Górna (advisor, OPZZ) and Sławomir Adamczyk (National Commission of NSZZ "Solidarność").

In the assessments as to the need to take action included in the agreement, the representatives of employers and trade unions agreed on what was stated in the agreement. They stated that this agreement is a kind of road map showing areas in which joint initiatives of employers' organizations and trade unions could appear, among others: mentoring, changes in the organization of working time. Issues related to the possibility of elaborating legislative recommendations and issues of increasing training opportunities for older employees raising qualifications were mentioned.

The trade unionists Diederik Brink (CNVO coordinator CVNO, the Netherlands), Rudolf Grec (President of the NSZZ "Solidarność" in Philip Morris Polska SA, Poland), Teresa Kowalska (President of the NSZZ "Solidarity" in Agros Nova Sp. z o.o., Poland) and Andrzej Kuchta (Leonardo airline company) shared their experience in negotiations of strategies or agreements on age management in enterprises.

From the presentation emerged a diverse picture of the problem.

In the Netherlands it is possible to retire early with a lower pension, the decision is made by the employee. On the Dutch labor market, self-employment causes disruptions. Self-employed persons do not have access to retirement benefits, so their future pension security is insecure.

In Polish workplaces, e.g.

- in Philip Morris Polska S.A the program within the framework of age management strategy in an enterprise includes a number of incentives and is implemented with a high level of employee trust.

- at Agros Nova Sp. z o.o. several years ago, good solutions were found to improve the working conditions of older employees in various aspects, e.g. regarding working time, additional bonuses, holidays, and holiday benefits. Unfortunately, after the privatization, the new owner was not interested in continuing the program.

- the Leonardo company noticed a problem after analyzing the age of employees. It turned out that in the near future 20% of employees would retire. The employer was surprised.

The discussions within the two panels underlined that:

- age management in the labor market should start from the first day of work and strive to create conditions enabling active aging and solidarity between generations,

- it would be appropriate to create the widest possible partnerships related to active aging and building solidarity between generations,

- partnership with public authorities should allow social partners to look for comprehensive solutions.

The role of social partners in developing proper strategies, tools and dissemination of good practices at the national, industry and workplace levels was emphasized. The growing awareness among the social partners of the need for intergenerational management has gained a lot of significance.

At the end of the seminar, the participants recommended:

- reading through the translation of the European Autonomous Framework Agreement on Active Ageing and Intergenerational Approach in the mother tongue of EU countries, as provided for in the agreement,

- dissemination of the European Autonomous Framework Agreement on Active Aging and Intergenerational Approach among union members, union leaders, to employers and representatives of employers and employers' organizations.

- creating a platform for age management at the European level with the use of cooperation at the local level, using the experience of partners.