The future of workers' organisations in a changing Europe: analysis and strategies for involving young people

The seminar “The future of workers' organisations in a changing Europe: analysis and strategies for involving young people” took place from 3 to 5 December, 2018, where the admission of youths under 35 years was given priority, and where a total 28 young men and women participated. The seminar’s institutional launching was attended by Ruth Carrasco Nuñez, general director of the Spanish Youth Institute, Piergiorgio Sciacqua, co-president of EZA and Josep Calvo, former vice-president of EZA, who expressed that we must contribute solutions for all of the EU workers, especially for young workers.

The seminar was organised with both the support of EZA and the European Union, and was part of the scientific and practical project regarding “Strategies of the European Institutions – Capacity Building”.

During the first session, professor Karin Schönpflug introduced her paper regarding the creation of skills for social dialog in a changing world for workers, speaking about digitalization and the special importance that communication implies between generations. Next, the panel regarding the situation of young researchers took place, in charge of Mara Ruiz Lozano, of the National Scientific and Ecological Research Institute, exposing that Spain should learn from other European countries, both in investment in research, as well as fostering research at the educational centres, coping with a university reform that may allow recognition of Spanish research activities, which, additionally, would resolve that lack of a research culture that we suffer in Spain. Furthermore, she emphasised the importance of fostering research models in collaboration with other European universities being a great opportunity to divulge what is being done.

Thereupon, a round table was held where the social and labour situation of youths in Portugal, Bulgaria and Spain was analysed. The last lecture of the day, where Annick Starren, of the European Agency for Health and Safety at Work participated, together with Javier Pla Figueroa, Occupational Health technician of the Worker’s Trade Union, the main measures to be considered by the companies in order to create safer and healthier work environments were analysed, highlighting the need for them to anticipate the impact of technological changes in the working conditions in a pre-emptive way, as an essential aspect in order to safeguard the health of all the workers.

The second workshop session began with the module related with the bid of the European labour union organizations and how to integrate young people and achieve their participation. Afterwards, the roundtable Youth and Retirement, a battle in the present to win the future, took place, in which a view of the situation of those juniors and seniors who are left in a situation as pensioners due to ailments or accidents, and the difficulties that they have to overcome in order to enjoy a decent quality of life in spite of their condition was discussed.

The next lecture of the day, in charge of Ana Belen Palacios, who is Head of the Women’s Department of the Worker’s Trade Union (USO), addressed the challenges that European women face in the twenty-first century, stressing that equality is teamwork, for which men and women are needed in order to overcome the differences established by gender, such as the gender salary gap, and the glass ceiling, among many other inequalities.

During that afternoon, the topic regarding new labour models, such as the misnamed collaborative economy, was also exposed in charge of Sara Garcia de las Heras, Confederal Secretary for Union Action and Occupational Health of the Worker’s Trade Union, explaining the current situation, and how companies such as UBER, Deliveroo and so many other ones have established a change in business models based on the lack of structures and social contributions. The workers and the users being those who contribute with the structure, means, contribution costs and tax pressure, without generating employment or doing it in an uncertain manner, or with irregular arrangements such as false self-employment.

The following lecture of the day took place in charge of the members of the Spanish Youth Council and of Madrid, revealing the importance of the participation of young people in the associative youth movements of Europe.

At the last lecture, Evelien Maris, of the Arktos Organization, explained how they worked in her organization in order to incorporate the generation of millennial youths and young people who do not study or work, after which an interesting debate among the members of the participating countries took place.

Regarding the development of these training activities, we can infer that trade union organizations need to be organised and uphold clear and accessible goals in order to oppose the policies of those governments who do not foster the inclusion of youths in the labour markets, carrying out activities directed to get rid of any situations where the labour and social rights of the people are being infringed, propose laws in order to guarantee that those rights receive protection, and achieve visibility before Society, especially trying to attract young people to perform their generational change-over.

During the workshop’s final conclusions, Karin Schönpflug congratulated us for the great job that we carry out in order to include young people within the members of the EZA organisations, and also Josep Calvo and Javier Iglesias, members of the USO youth, underscored their satisfaction because people under 35 years participated mostly in this workshop, in order to favour and foster them to feel that they are part of their worker organizations, which in its own turn shall lead to the revitalisation of the EZA network.