Workers' organizations – social justice's advocators

From 4 to 5 October 2019 took place in Portoroz, Slovenia, a seminar about “Workers' organizations – social justice's advocators”, organized by ZD NSi (Združenje delavcev Nove Slovenije) in co-operation with Social Academy and Janez Evangelist Krek Institute, with the support of EZA and of the European Union.

The purpose of the seminar was to understand the role of workers' organizations in ensuring social justice. In different European countries, workers face many situations that they find incomprehensible and unfair. The number of workers that are quietly expressing dissatisfaction with the institutions that should act is growing and that is why confidence in those institutions is diminishing.

At the seminar, attended by more than 50 participants from seven different countries, we firstly exchanged theoretical views on social justice. In the second, third and fourth program module we examined in more detail the views of workers' organizations on social justice. In the fifth and sixth module, we touched upon various concrete challenges that, in the view of workers, need special attention.

Social justice

Social justice is the most important foundation of democracy. The principle of justice alone is the one thing, which allows the authorities to exercise political action over the population. Any measure of power that is not socially just could thus be characterized as a form of violence carried out the authorities against their citizens.

Justice is based on the value of human dignity, from which (in addition to justice) two other principles emerge: solidarity and subsidiarity. Additionally all these values form the core of the Lisbon Treaty on which is founded the European Union.

Speakers at the seminar listed various areas of direct concern to workers and in which social justice in individual EU countries is at stake. Among other things, they mentioned the pension system, migration policies, differences between countries in the field of social policies, the phenomena of corruption, mobbing, environmental care, health care and accessibility of infrastructure.

In general, the participants of the seminar recognized the following dimensions of social justice:

-Justice between individuals (e.g. comparison of wages and working conditions between two individuals)

-Justice between industries (e.g. comparison of collective agreements)

-Justice between countries (e.g. comparison of countries' social policies)

-Global justice (e.g. in global concern for the environment or in managing global migration)

Social Policies in Europe as a Tool for Social Justice

Throughout its history, the EU has paid much more attention to economic policies than social policies. In fact, all EU integration began at an economic level. However, we should be bear in mind that, in the light of the principle of free movement of workers, it is also essential to have a greater convergence between countries in the field of social policies.

The European Pillar of Social Rights addresses the many and important challenges of social justice, but implementation in each country is slow. In doing so, the EU does not have sufficient tools to accelerate the implementation of this document. However, this document is “just” a commitment of the leaders, which in the case of non-compliance does not have direct consequences.

According to some studies, the EU, despite the fact that it represents only 7% of the world’s population, carries out approximately 50% of social transfers worldwide. On one hand, a social Europe is our key competitive advantage, perhaps even a defence against even larger populations but on the other hand, too many social transfers, if not already planned fairly, can also be a burden for an economy, which is becoming less competitive.

In the seminar, it was clearly stated that social and economic policies should be interconnected: “Good social policy is also a good economic policy in the long run.” And the other way around: good economic policy is on the principle of “upward convergence”, according to which the progress of the more competitive ones is also the result of the progress of the less competitive ones, including good social policy.

Particularly pressing relationships in terms of work and social justice

The seminar highlighted the relationships between social groups and phenomena where the treatment of social justice required special attention. These are:

-The relationship between young and older workers, in which a fair pension system is key, measures at country and company level to better integrate individual generations and address the expectations of each generation in relation to work at company level.

-The relationship between countries in the north and south of the European continent, where migration from south to north further destroys the already negative demographic picture of the countries of origin.

-The relationship between rich to poor employees, who were particularly exposed to the risks that might lead an individual to fall into the category of poor employees (single-employee households, illness, rented housing, low education, poor credit, lack of lifelong learning).

- The relationship between capital and interpersonal relationships, using the example of companies or business models that put a person at the top of their business activity.