Work, citizenship and representation: Aspects of the social dialogue put to the immigration test in the times of COVID-19

On June 17, 2021, a seminar was held in Cagliari (Italy) on the topic “Work, citizenship and representation: Aspects of the social dialogue put to the immigration test in the times of COVID-19". The seminar was organised by FLC (Fondazione Luigi Clerici) in cooperation with IPCM (International Platform for Collaboration and Migration) and supported by EZA and the European Union.

The seminar session was opened by Paolo Cesana (Director of the Fondazione Luigi Clerici). In his speech, he explained the organiser's choice of the conference topic as well as the expectations and objectives set. The developments placed on the agenda are characterized by their topicality and the interest with which they are followed. This also applies to the countries represented at the seminar. Paolo Cesana especially welcomed the participants who made their contribution during the morning, as well as the participants from other European countries.

Work, citizenship, and advocacy through workers' organisations play a key role in the integration process of migrants. The aim of the seminar was to analyse the importance of these concepts for the integration process and to investigate the (new) challenges for employee organisations in this context because of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on European labour markets has hit particularly the vulnerable groups of workers, including migrant workers. The seminar first analysed the situation of those migrant workers who were already integrated into the labour market before the coronavirus pandemic, especially in those sectors where the proportion of migrant workers is high and which currently receive special attention: on the one hand, tourism, and hotels - and catering trades, whose workers suffer from precariousness and unemployment; on the other hand, the working conditions in the important sectors of the health and care system. In this context, in a second step, the difficulties of migrant workers who still have to be integrated (or have to be reintegrated) into the labour market were discussed. The seminar highlighted how the coronavirus pandemic has made access to further training and sustainable employment more difficult - especially for disadvantaged groups in the labour market. The seminar developed strategies for workers' organisations that enable them to support migrant workers in the integration process during the coronavirus pandemic and to represent their interests in social dialogue. Relations with European partners such as Lithuania, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Belgium and Romania made it possible to unite actions promoting the integration of migrants on the basis of solidarity. The testimonies of the partners and institutions attending this important event also made it clear that another result of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in Europe is that workers' organizations have to represent the interests of workers in difficult conditions. They showed workers' organizations ways and strategies on how to use social dialogue in the current situation to represent the interests of migrant workers, who are particularly affected by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the labour market. The involvement of the trade union organisations on this important point on the issue of immigration was a fundamental contribution. Caterina Coco, representative of the Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro (CGIL) of the Region of Sardinia, where the seminar took place, underlined the importance of the issue of migration and the need for constant and serious work both at regional and national level. CGIL is very committed to the development and implementation of inclusive immigration policies so that people who need to find a place can set foot in another country and find welcome and inclusion, and therefore the opportunity to build a life. The role that Europe plays in all of this is fundamental. The starting point is the European project, which of course has to be carried out jointly. When dealing with the issue of immigration, this means that there must be an inclusion capacity in all Member States so that migration can be managed. Migration movements will not simply stop; on the contrary, they will increase. People will meet, and they will have to come together. Even during the dramatic Covid-19 pandemic, workers' organisations have faced the problem. It brought them closer together. Behind them lies an experience that must help to overcome the borders between states and teach to see the other not as a problem but as an opportunity, knowing that it benefits everyone and strengthens everyone. That is the policy that the European Union must pursue. However, this topic should not only be extended to the whole of Europe. In the Mediterranean area, the drama and the problems are very clear. The political course that is now being taken to implement the goals of the 2030 Agenda, which are intended to address the issues of world hunger, poverty, and work, require a high degree of synergy. However, the pandemic has increased inequalities and there are phenomena that will further aggravate the situation in African countries, which is why further migration movements must be expected. At the moment it's about making the right decision.

It is not enough to say: “We are for the immigrant people”. There must be a right to immigrate and a right to be admitted and they must be applied. It is in this direction that the CGIL is positioning itself as a union, working from within, strengthening the culture within and developing actions to involve others and make their voices heard and do the work that it is their job to do, namely, to ensure that rights and protections are contractually enshrined.

Against the background of all the reports, the director of the Fondazione Clerici takes up the issue of skills and the labour market, which is a particular concern. The issue of immigration is a process that is just as unstoppable as that of population mixing. As much as one may view others with suspicion, one competence that needs to be worked on as a matter of priority is knowledge of the other, a worldwide opening to opportunities and competences, also in education, which the immigrant workforce is able to support.