The Central European Young Trade Unionist (CEYTUN) network met in Vienna to discuss the about “International solidarity for realizing a social Europe – focusing on labour migration and discrimination”.
The participants from Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland were addressed by Erich Foglar, the President of the Austrian Trade Union Confederation (ÖGB). Mr. Foglar spoke about the historical link between the Austrian nation state and recurrent migration flows, as well as the (positive) effects of labour migration on the Austrian labour market and the social welfare system. He pointed out that the current wave of refugees might pose big challenges but that in the middle and long term, the European Union will benefit from them. He also stressed that wage and social dumping had to be avoided (Austria passed a specific law in this regard) and that the principle “same wage for the same work at the same place” had to be respected in order to avoid unfair competition between workers. The integration of migrant workers has to be accompanied by measures for (re) integrating long term unemployed persons. As President of the ÖGB, he sees it as the responsibility of trade unions to enlighten workers about the need for international solidarity and the benefits of migrant workers in the middle and long run.
Valentin Wedl from the Austrian Chamber of Labour (Arbeiterkammer) spoke about the changes in vision and expectation of social Europe after the crisis of 2008. He attributed the backlashed of social Europe to a shift from a Keynesian economic model, favoring domestic demand, to a neoliberal model in the late nineties, focusing on global competitiveness. In this current mindset, social standards are seen as unfavorable for competition with other countries and world regions. After 2008 there has been a reduction of the welfare state and of trade union influence in most EU countries. At the same time the corporate power has increased at the European level. To revive social Europe more social policy competencies should be shifted to the EU and decent EU minimum standards should established.
Participants presented on the situation and perceptions of migrants in their country, the presentations were followed by a lively debate. While it proved difficult for participants from the different countries to find common positions on the integration of migrants and refugees in Europe, the exchange fostered mutual understanding.
Participants also had the opportunity to make a field visit to a hospital to observe the integration of migrant workers in the health sector in Austria.
Finally, Salvatore Marra, the president of the ETUC Youth Committee debated with Sascha Ernszt, the President of the ÖGB Youth Committee about social Europe and the current situation of young people. The most important concerns are high youth unemployment and low level of participation of young workers in trade unions.
CEYTUN was created in 2012 with the objective to promote the exchange between young trade unions members in Central Europe and to address common challenges.