Friday, April 22, 2016


On the map you see the names of the European countries from which participants
came at the seminar in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia (19-21 of April)

The Austrian trade union federation FCG/GPA-djp and the Dutch trade union confederation CNV organized together with the European Organization of Workers EO/WOW, the Serbian Federation SS Bofos and the European Centre for Workers' Questions EZA a European seminar especially for trade unions in Central and Eastern Europe. The seminar had about 70 participants coming from 20 different European countries. It was held in the city of Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, from Tuesday evening 19 until noon of Thursday 21 of April. Excellent speakers from different countries held introductions on the different aspects of the Eco-Social Market Economy.

Preparing the opening of the seminar. On the left Günther Trausznitz,
General Secretary of the FCG/GPA-djp (Austria) and President of the EO/WOW.
In front of him Bartho Pronk, President of the EZA.
Between them Mara Erdelj, President of SS Bofos (Serbia)
and member of the board of the EO/WOW.
They together spoke on the official opening of the seminar.

The definition of social market economy is: a form of market capitalism combined with a social policy which favours social insurance and solidarity. The social market economy forms the heart of our free and open national and, increasingly more, European society, which is also characterised by solidarity. It has proven itself as an economic system that allows for prosperity and full employment whilst also providing welfare and promoting a strong social fabric.

Günther welcomes the participants of the seminar on the morning of the 20th of April.

The concept of an Eco-social market economy was first developed in the 1980s by the Austrian politician Josef Riegler, who, out of concern for the environment, demanded that the social market economy should be further complemented by the component "environmental responsibility". It aims at balancing free market economics, the strive for social fairness and the sustainable use and protection of the natural resources. The eco-social market economy requires that the protection of the environment and social fairness are vital criteria for all economic activity.

Mr. Magister Johannes Mindrer-Steiner , Executive Director of the Institut for
Umwelt, Friede und Entwicklung IUFE (Austria), spoke on
"The Eco-Social market Economy: Hype or the future?"

In that sense the Eco-social market economy can be considered a very Social-Christian principle. Having a balance between the various actors of the economy does also imply that this is sustainable. The Biblical term for this is ‘custodianship’. Being responsible, in manner of acting, for current and future generations. Natural resources are not endless and should not easily be discarded. But one can easily translate this to sustainable welfare and solidarity.

Ms. Marija Parun Kolin, Senior Research Associate in the
Centre for Sociological Research, Institute of Social Sciences Belgrade (Serbia),
spoke about "Challenges for the Eco-Social Market Economy
in the new EU Member States."

So the Eco-social market economy aims at an enduring society in the respective cultural context, which is sustainable on three levels: environmental, social, and economical. This is in accordance to what is mentioned in the Treaty of Lisbon under article 3.

Mr. DI Josef Riegler, Vice-chancellor AD and Honorary President
Ökosozialen Forum (Austria), treated the "Eco-Social Market Economy:
a project for justice and peace."

But how to put the above into practice? The main issue is the compatibility of ecological and social aims with the principles of a market economy. The crucial question is: which framework conditions have to be created so that the dynamics of a market economy move within borders that are imposed by ecological and social aspects. Politics for the economy and for the society needs a clear regulatory framework. This is now more important than ever.

On the left Mara Erdelj, the chairperson on Thursday, and behind her
Mr. Dr. Petar Dukic, Professor Faculty of Technology and 
speaking about "Are the principles  of a market economy compatible
with ecological and social aims?

Saturday, March 12, 2016


The Bertelsmann Stiftung organized on the 10th of March a Brussels Briefing*, a meeting for Eurocrats, Europoliticians and Eurolobbyists , about “The future of the Euro: more discipline or more solidarity?” This is not an easy subject because of its complexity. The Euro is  a single currency for countries with different economies, different economic rules, different systems of government, different social and tax systems and different histories.

As long as the Euro-economies were growing, which was the case before 2008, everybody was happy, no questions asked about the Euro except by those whose profession is to be skeptical, as for example monetary experts and economists. When a crisis starts to develop more people become skeptical and critical, especially those who never liked much the Euro and the European Union. People started to look for who should be blamed for the problems. But blaming does not give solutions. In such a situation, it takes a lot of political courage to continue the dialogue for searching a solution. In this sense, the Euro countries have proven, to have sufficient political will and solidarity to solve the crisis together.

During the debt crisis of the last years have been developed new instruments and institutions to stabilize the Euro currency. But as professor Hendrik Enderlein explained on the Brussels Briefing “the crisis is not over”.  It is his opinion that if there are no changes, the Euro will not be viable in the long run because of more divergence instead of convergence between the Euro-countries, unclear competences in EU economic governance and a waning EU legitimacy as for example shows the coming referendum on a possible Brexit.

Europe is still suffering of high debt levels and low investment rates, low economic growth ( a lost decennium since 2008), a reform gap and distrust between the EU members. Besides all this, the EU is confronted with another crisis;  the massive influx of refugees from the Middle East what puts under pressure the Schengen agreement as one of the most practical and concrete results of the EU for Europeans.   

Enderlein therefore advocates a 'Repair and Prepare Strategy' based on the following principles:
As much integration as necessary, as little as possible
EMU level as part of multi-level governance ( EMU: European Monetary Union)
More sovereignty sharing together with more risk sharing.

Although, it was expected as a result of the Euro that the European countries would converge, the opposite happened, the Euro did bring divergence. “This divergence was not really surprising in view of the fact that the euro-area was a heterogenous economic space from the very beginning. Structural differences, such as labor market and product market structures, social security and welfare policies, and the banking and financial systems persisted. They reflect a history of different political choices and economic strategies." (page 13, What kind of convergence does the euro need?, edited by the Jacques Delors Institut and the Bertelsmann Stiftung). 

How do you keep so many different economies in one Eurobasket to guarantee a minimum of Euro Stability? The solution should be more convergence in prices. For example today we are confronted with a single interest rate based on the average inflation rate. “However, inflation rates diverse significantly within the euro area. Thus interest rates will be too low for countries with a high inflation rate, and vice versa. This means that the single interest rate destabilizes the euro. For this reason, inflation differentials should be as small as possible.” (page 13) 

The second requirement for convergence in the euro-area is to make sure that they are on a par with other countries in competitiveness and therefore keep wage growth pace with productivity. “Third, countries in the euro area ought to avoid permanent external imbalances. Both, excessive surpluses as well as excessive deficits, can cause problems for other member states.”

Professor Enderlein prescribes another set of measures to strengthen the single market as to stabilize more the euro: complete the single market for services (in the past strong contested by the European trade unions), improve labor mobility, portability of pension rights, recognition of professional qualifications, cooperation across employment agencies, domestic reforms facilitating price and wage adjustments. It is easy to see that all these measures will lead to much political debate on all levels, including the European trade unions.

Another proposal is to create an European Monetary Fund and the function of European Finance Minister. Both proposals suppose a transfer of  national sovereignty to Brussels and as we know, on this point more people feel  very uncomfortable and are even opposed to loss of more national sovereignty to Brussels. Britain is preparing a referendum on a possible Brexit, in the Netherlands a referendum will be held on the Association Treaty between Ukraine and the EU, in France the nationalist and anti Europe party Front National is becoming stronger and so on.

The 4th proposal is to complete the Banking Union. Although a lot has been done since the debt crisis much remains to be done. An important step would be the creation of a deposit insurance scheme and to organize macro prudential supervision.

In summary, Europe needs more convergence to improve monetary transmission, more risk-sharing to fight fragmentation and sovereignty-sharing to fight moral hazard. This should be based on the basic principle of “as much integration as needed, but as little as possible.” Therefore there is no need for a European super state and room for subsidiarity, in other words “Europe as part of multi-level governance.” Will this be enough to convince the anti Europeans, as well as the international financial markets and the political powers on world level? The answers are hidden in the future.

* Brussels Briefing of Prof. Dr. Hendrik Underlain, Jacques Delors Institut-Berlin & Hertie School of Governance and Dr. Katharina Gnath, Bertelsmann Stiftung, Brussels 10 March 2016

Friday, January 29, 2016


The flag of the merged trade union "CNV Craftsmen"

From January 1, the CNV Services Trade Union merged with CNV Trade Union of Craftsmen. With this merger the CNV Trade Union Craftsmen has become 160 000 members, all working in the private/market sector.
About hundred negotiators of this new trade union will play an important role in the creation of approximately 500 collective agreements in the Netherlands. In the magazine Akkoord of the former CNV Services Trade union, the current president Dirk Zwagerman and his predecessor Jaap Kos (1973-1995) look back at the rich history of their trafe union, which has reached the age of 112.

In 1894 was founded the predecessor of the CNV Services Trade union, the Dutch Association of Christian Clerical and Commercial Employees (NVCK & H). The NVCK & H is one of the oldest national trade unions in the Netherlands. Industrialization led to increase in scale. The larger working places created a need for advocacy for workers. Swagerman: "I have often thought about how it must have been during that time. I have deep respect for the people who did their trade union work alongside their normal work without any legal protection. To say something wrong could have immediately serious consequence at your workplace. These people took great risks. “

The last President of the CNV Services trade union who retired after the merger with
CNV Craftsmen

In 1909, the NVC K & H (about 500 members) and other unions founded the Trade Union Confederation CNV. Swagerman: "There is often a misunderstanding about the role of the trade union confederation. People often think that the confederation decides about trade union policies, but it is the other way around. At that time so many different national trade unions were founded, that together they decided to found a confederation, with the aim to do as much as possible together but at the same time to continue as independent trade unions. "

The beginning of the five year occupation of the the Netherlands by Hitler and the German Army. The leadership of CNV was taken over by the Dutch political party of Nazi’s (NSB). Within a few weeks 90% of the members left the confederation.

The former President of the CNV Services trade union Jaap Kos (left) was also President of the World Federation of Clerical Workers WFCW, the predecessor of WOW. The photograph was made at a meeting of the European Board of the WFCW held in Zürich, Swiss (August 27, 1992). From left to right: Jaap Kos (President of WCFW coming from the Dutch CNV Services trade union), Richard Paiha (Board member and Secretary General of the Austrian FCG-GPA), Charles Steck (Treasurer of the WFCW coming from the Swiss trade union Syna), Ivo Penner (President of the European Organization of the WFCW and  coming from the Austrian trade union FCG-GPA), Piet Nelissen (executive secretary WFCW and confederal secretary World Confederation of Labour)

Merger of the NVCK & H with the Trade Union of Technicians (NVCT) and the Trade Union of Craftsmen (NCWB), both also members of the CNV Confederation, into the Dutch Christian Trade Union of Employees (NCBB)

The name NCBB is changed into HBV (Commerce, Banking and Insurance) with 12 949 members.
Jaap Kos:  "Until the name changed into Services Trade union (Dienstenbond CNV) in 1978, the HBV was a bit of a dusty club. I thought it was even a bit of a dowdy club, housed in a stately mansion in Amsterdam. There were old-fashioned furniture and an old typewriter. The HBV had a bit of a bureaucratic appearance, what we call in the Netherlands men-brothers ambiance. “

1977 is the year of the the first strikes. Jaap Kos: "As Christian trade union we were involved in strikes only from 1977. It was very special because we had no history of strikes,. I remember particularly the strike at the broadcasting stations. TV newsman Charles Groenhuijsen wanted to make a news item about the strike until I reminded him that he himself was part of the strike. At one point I myself was threatened by viewers when television and radio went on black. “

Launch of growth models by borrowing millions at other CNV trade unions. Swagerman: "The services sector became more important for the Dutch economy. Employment was growing enormously. We as Services Trade union had not enough financial resources to deal with the growth in an optimal way. In order not to be blown away at the negotiating tables - especially with large employers - we must grow: both in terms of membership and organization as well as in terms of professionalism. By borrowing money from other CNV trade unions, we could for instance attract more lawyers and negotiators and professionalize on other areas. “

100 th anniversary of the CNV Services Trade union. The growth models proved to be successful: 21 250 members.

Mass Demonstration on the Museumplein against government plans regarding early retirement, pension and disability insurance (300,000 demonstrators).

The merger with CNV Trade union of Craftsmen (160,000 members). Swagerman: "I will soon become one of the leaving chairmen. I am confident that we will pass in good way our wonderful history to the new organization." 

Piet Fortuin, the new President of the merged CNV Craftsmen trade union.

New Approach
Piet Fortuin is the new President of the CNV Craftsmen. "We want to be very emphatically a reliable partner for workers which they can consult throughout their careers." He adds: "We are not a trade union of different menus and six persons are waiting before you."
Therefore our trade union launches soon the digital platform "Your Supporters". This platform is set up for each sector and provides both members and non-members a place to engage with each other and with trade union professionals. Workers can discuss on the platform about irregularities that occur in their industry or business so that colleagues and trade union professionals can respond. Thanks to the many interactions that will follow, the support and representation of collective agreements will be increased."

Kees van Kortenhof

Monday, December 7, 2015



The Austrian Christian Fraction of Trade Unionists (FCG), part of the Austrian Trade Union Confederation (ÖGB), campaigns for respect and maintaining the work-free Sunday. For this campaign the FCG has formulated 7 good reasons for a work-free Sunday.

1. Sunday gives the week its rhythm. Without a regular recurring process and interruption, people become ill. Sunday makes the week working like a clock.

2. Sunday is a free day. People do not only live for work. They also must get the time for celebrating life.

3.Sunday is a free day for the whole society. We are thankfull for all those who have to work on that day, but one ensures that this work on Sunday remains an exception and that work on Sunday does not become the rule.

4.The free Sunday represents a boundary between outside and self-determined time and counteracts the trend that all time of living becomes work and consumption time.

5. Sunday is a family and relations day. In times of increasing workload and more flexible working hours, Sunday gets more importance as a day for being together. This possibility should be maintained, also for employees in the retail sector.

6.The free Sunday guarantees time prosperity and quality of life for the whole society. This time of togetherness with others or for themselves need not be negotiated each time.

7. A free Sunday has to be obtained (again) at national and at EU level. Likewise, the public holidays of the individual Member States must be respected as an expression of cultural and religious identity.

Monday, November 9, 2015


At the start of his mandate (November 2014), the Christian Democratic oriented EU President Jean Claude Juncker from Luxembourg, decided to relaunch the European Social Dialogue. On 5 March, a high-level summit in Brussels brought together the EU-level cross-industry and sectoral social partners together with the European Commission to discuss ways to strengthen social dialogue. On 19 March, the Tripartite Social Summit looked at the contribution of the social partners to investing in growth and creating jobs. And on 21–22 April in Riga, an informal meeting of EU Ministers for Employment and Social Affairs held as part of the Latvian Presidency examined the role and future development of social dialogue.

The European magazine “Foundation Focus” number 17 of September 2015 gives special attention to the state of the European Social Dialogue. There is a common feeling that the European Social Dialogue is in crisis. “Collective industrial relations, including social dialogue, have undergone dramatic change over recent decades, with a shift to predominantly service or knowledge economies, greater individualisation in society at large, and the growth of female employment and changing gender roles bringing issues of work–life balance, care arrangements and working-time patterns to the table. And economic change is a key driver of the role of social dialogue. After the financial crisis of 2008, the issue of European social dialogue slipped down the policy agenda in the face of more immediate economic concerns. Strengthening social dialogue to enable social partners to address socioeconomic issues in Europe more effectively has, from its outset, been a declared key task of the new Juncker Commission.” (the editorial)

As part of this relaunch of the European Social Dialogue a special report on “Collective bargaining in Europe in the 21st century” was recently (4 November) published by Eurofound, Publications office of the European Union, Luxembourg. Authors: Eckhard Voss, Katharina Schöneberg and Ricardo Rodriguez Contreras. It is a very thorough academic report with much detailed evaluation of the Collective Bargaining Systems and nature of the Social Dialogues in the different countries of the EU. It is clear that the 2008 crisis has hit the different European countries in a different way. Changes are related to the existing organizational capabilities and strength of the employers organizations and trade unions, the nature of the Governments, the actual economic situation etc.

The executive summary of the report ends with a paragraph on the need to find a new balance in the collective Bargaining Process. The impression is that the report stresses the importance of a collective bargaining process that is much wider oriented than setting wages and working conditions on company level. Social Dialogue and Collective Bargaining processes should be on national level and also contain wider macro economic goals like reduction of income inequalities, settling labor disputes, job creation, fiscal policies etc.

This study has shown that, with few exceptions, most EU countries since the late 1990s have been reporting accelerated change in their collective bargaining practices and systems.
All EU countries have faced globalization and increased pressure on costs and productivity; continuous economic and financial uncertainties; an unprecedented level of unemployment; technological change; demographic, employment and social changes and risks; increasing income inequalities; skills gaps; and the need to adjust training systems. These challenges are changing the role of, the problems to be addressed by, and the actors involved in collective bargaining. As a result, existing regulations and standard collective agreements are being challenged by the combined pressures of flexible work organization, costs, outsourcing and shareholder value, especially where regulations and agreements cover entire sectors or national economies in a standard way. This, in turn, has created pressure for organized as well as more disorganized and fragmented decentralization in all EU countries, accompanied by major strains and a weakening of the regulatory power of employer organizations and trade unions at national level.

The map shows “The intensity of change in collective bargaining since 1997

"A major result of this study in this context is that since 2008 the gap has broadened between countries that are characterized by a comparatively high organizational strength of social partner organizations, stable and influential practices and institutions of various forms of tripartism, and a broad collective bargaining agenda, on the one hand, and countries where industrial relations actors, processes and outcomes are weaker, on the other hand. For example, in terms of the membership density of trade union and employer organizations, all the countries that have experienced the strongest decline in density since the end of the 1990s are located in central and eastern Europe, whereas all the countries that report relative stability are in western Europe. But not only is there a growing gap; in terms of the influence of tripartism and tripartite practices on public policies, the shrinking group of countries where influence is reported to be significant and goes beyond symbolic action or mere dialogue, consultation and information are also located in western Europe. Similar features emerge with regard to the influence of social partners and concertation on anti-crisis programmes or social policy packages in response to labour market problems. A further clear result is that there is a stark contrast between those (few) countries that report a stable situation and a broadening collective bargaining agenda that covers not only core items but also contributes to coping with major economic, social and other challenges and those countries that have experienced a significant narrowing of bargaining agendas during the past decade. The latter group consists of many countries in central and eastern, north-western and southern Europe." (pages 54 and 55 of the Report)

Taking account of all these developments and often contradictory trends (polarization or asymmetric convergence in terms of more flexible procedures, but also divergence in terms of national dynamics and the effects of the crisis), along with changes in the regulatory influence and orientations of national governments and European institutions, the following questions in regard to the current and future role of collective bargaining arise, based on two approaches:

- Will collective bargaining at company level keep on reducing its core functions as a mechanism for setting wages and incomes within a corridor that is mainly determined by firm performance, competitiveness and productivity?

- Or will there also be above that level a wider dimension of collective bargaining in regard to social integration, equality, avoiding unfair competition, and influencing employment and working conditions as well as income and wealth distribution more broadly, and not only limited to employees covered directly by bargaining agreements?

This research suggests that the evolution of these narrow and wider dimensions of collective bargaining since the late 1990s has been characterized by a growing imbalance, to the detriment of the wider and more solidarity-oriented dimension. At the same time, it has become clear that there are still examples throughout Europe where this more normative role of collective bargaining is alive and has even been revitalized in response to social and labour market challenges.
Accordingly, it is acknowledged that collective bargaining provides a solid foundation for progress and growth in the EU Member States, not only by setting wages and working conditions as core functions, but also by supporting the reduction of income inequalities. In addition, it comprises an intangible asset for industrial relations, building up mutual trust between actors, easing the settlement of labour and industrial disputes, and contributing to the general macroeconomic development at national level and better company performance.”

Saturday, October 24, 2015


Former President of the European Council Mr. Herman van Rompuy (X) and the President
of the Christian Workers Organization ''  Patrick Develtere (Y)
posing together with the speakers at the Conference
coming from 26 European Countries, members of the European Union.

Since the financial crisis, inmediately followed by an economic crisis, a debate is going on in Europe about how the crisis should be resolved. At stake is the preservation of the welfare state. According to many, the welfarestate threatens to collapse by the European wide austerity policies, the reforms of the pensionsystem and retrenchment of the social protection system, in particular the care for the chronically ill and the elderly.

Both left and right-wing governments join this policy, such as in the Netherlands with its coalition government of the conservative liberal VVD party and the classic social democratic party PvdA. Under strong protest of the trade unions, the coalition has raised the age for the state pension to 67 years. To reduce the costs of healthcare and social protection, the Netherlands should become a so called participatory society, where tasks are transferred to local authorities and social care again becomes a task of family, friends and neighbors. Another example is Greece, where an election victory of the far left Syriza party could not avoid a strict austerity and reform programme imposed by the EU. The German Christian Democratic Chancellor Merkel and French Socialist President Hollande demanded strong state budget cuts and radical reforms in the tax system, social protection system and others.

During the recently held Fifth European Conference on 'The State of the Welfare State in the EU in the year 1992 and 20 years later' in the city of Leuven (19-20 October 2015), Belgium, an overview was given of the state of the welfare state by as much as 26 academic speakers from as many countries. There was also a fascinating lecture by Herman van Rompuy, who told his chronicle about the five years he was the first President of the European Council (2010-2014) and Jo Vandeurzen, Flemish Minister of social policy, health and family, who explained the radical Reforms of the Flemish social protection system.

The first conference on this topic was held in 1992. The Congress document "Aim of the Conference" provides a brief review. The year 1992 was "an important moment in the European integration process as major steps had to be taken with a view to completing the internal market. Efforts to attain this goal, however, were leading to growing concern about the creation of a 'Social Europe', which in several aspects was developing at a slower pace. In this context, implementing EMU (European Monetary Union) and attaining convergence were imposing new constraints on national social protection systems. "

The second conference in 2000 was an update of the state of the welfare state in the 15 EU members. "Eleven of them already Entered the Monetary Union.The welfare states had stabilized at a relatively high level. The creation of the Eurozone did not jeopardize this. Social protection was not considered counterproductive for economic development. In the third European Conference in 2005 we observed them ( the new member states of Central and Eastern Europe) lagging behind the old Member States, while at the same time catching up at an incredibly fast speed and inventing new ways of social protection or rediscovering older ways . "

The timing of the conference in April 2010 allowed us to compare the welfare state with the situation just before the crisis (the financial and economic crisis that struck the world economy in 2008) and made us wonder whether the crisis was already over. The question here was no longer whether and why the welfare state was in danger. Quite the contrary, in fact, as the welfare state had played an important role in absorbing the crisis. However, the question arose as to whether it also had been a source that helped solve the crisis.Since that time a new financial and broader budgetary crisis has ocurred, affecting the very core of the welfare state, and we have witnessed a deepening and espacially greater entrenchment of the economic crisis.How the Welfare States can survive this turmoil... is the question.”

Since the beginning of the crisis in 2008, the European trade union movement struggles for the preservation of the welfare state. In his opening speech entitled "Maintaining and Improving social protection in Europe: a robust system against a persisting crisis" Patrick Develtere of the Belgian Christian Social Organization gives an overview of the main views of the trade union movement in this debate.

Without social protection of the welfare state, the economy would have further collapsed and poverty have been much greater. Social protection such as unemployment benefits, sickness benefits and pensions have ensured that the purchasing power of the common people remained more or less stable. One can therefore argue that social services have been "a cushion" to absorb the shock of the economic crisis and to protect the economy from further collapse.

Thanks to these social services the government functions also as a sort of "automatic stabilizer". The system ensures that the national economy continues to operate at a reasonable level. But the government can do more. By investing for example in the modernization of education and expansion of care the government can give the economy a new boost. Like the European trade union movement Develtere advocates a classic Keynesian policy in which the government will invest anti-cyclically by spending more money in stead of cutting budgets. With such a policy the state therefore can not avoid to having to raise taxes. Especially the so-called rich should pay more through taxation of equity (capital). Such a policy would also bring about a better distribution of wealth. So far it is not yet. Meanwhile, tax evasion is tackled more vigorously.

In the chronicle of Herman van Rompuy, we read other views on the nature and solution of the crisis. Although he agrees that the ultimate goal of European policy is a social Europe, but this had to wait until the Euro crisis had been solved: "the disintegration of the euro zone would have jeopardized the survival of the EU. It would also have led to a depression in most countries and have increased inequalities between the member states. "

According to Van Rompuy the most problems already existed before the beginning of the crisis. The crisis brought the underlying problems only to the surface: lack of competitiveness, unsustainable public finances and a lack of supervision of the budgetary -, macroeconomic - and banking situation. "Divergence in economic growth and employment between members of the Eurozone after 2007 was already there but was hidden by borrowing. The growth in some countries was artificial ... So the structural unemployment rate in the eurozone at the end of 2007 was already 8.8% (10% in 2014) and the number of people at risk of poverty already 16.6% (as in 2013). "

Van Rompuy concludes that "the structural economic growth, the economic potential for many years was too low, even in the strongest economies. Sure to keep our social model financially viable and to play a role in the world. Weak demographics (the aging of the population) , lack of innovation and business investments were among others some of the causes. The 'common' market was too' fragmented 'in the sectors of energy, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and Research & Development (R&D) "

In summary, the debts were too high (thanks to the euro which made the initial debt financing of all European countries with low interest rates possible) while the economies underperformed. There are still additional problems like the aging population, higher government costs for pensions, more care for the elderly and the globalization that requires more and better competitiveness. It is clear that only a Keynesian policiy will not be enough to strengthen the European economies so that social security and social protection can be maintained at the same level as before.

Europe therefore is looking for a fair balance between debt reduction and (public and private) investments to get economic growth, to create jobs and to make more sustainable the social welfare state for the next future.

The conference was organized by The research Institute for Work and Society (HIVA) of the Catholic University of Leuven for and in collaboration with the European Centre of Workers' Questions EZA with the financial support of the Belgian Federal Public Service Security and in association with the Athenian Policy Forum APF.

Monday, September 28, 2015


WCL members present at the foundation congress of the ITUC, Vienna 2006. 
From left to right starting left above: WCL Secretary General Willy Thys (ACV Belgium), 
Andrzej Adamcsyk (Solidarnosc Poland), Laura Gonzales Txabarri (ELA Spain), 
Bogdan Hossu (cartel Alfa Romania) 

On the 27th WCL Congress, held on October 31, 2006 in Vienna, an overwhelming majority voted for the abolishment of the WCL. The only organisation present at the meeting that voted against the abolition of the WCL was the WFCW, which at its congress in Medan, Indonesia had decided to oppose the merger and to remain independent as WFCW. A brave decision considering the pressure exerted to agree to the abolishment of the WCL and the creation of the new global trade union confederation ITUC. Moreover, the pressure kept going even after the foundation of the ITUC. 
Due to the WFCW I could be present on this last WCL Congress. With a view to the future the WFCW board had invited me to become a member of the World Board of WFCW and the European Board. I felt honored by this request and I was glad that I could still contribute to the strengthening of the WFCW and thus still keep alive the spirit of the WCL.

WCL adffiliates at the ITUC foundation Congress in Vienna, 2006.
From left to right starting left above: Julio Roberto Gomez (CGT Colombia),
José Pinzon (CGTG Guatemala), Mariano Mena (CGTP Panama),
Mamounata Cissé (ITUC Deputy Secretary General) talking to Eduardo Estevez
(WCL Confederal Secretary).

Nevertheless, I considered the abolition of the WCL also as a personal defeat. Since 1992 I had worked enthusiastically, under the leadership of General Secretary Carlos Custer, for the strengthening of the WCL. My field was especially Central and Eastern Europe and some International Trade Union Federations ITF's including WFCW. During that time I learned to know the power politics of the ICFTU. While the WCL mainly supported the newly created unions that arose from the dissident non-communist workers after the fall of communism, the ICFTU looked for mostly the old communist trade union leaders. Only the North American AFL-CIO made efforts to support newly created trade unions.

European WOW Board meeting at the WOW office in  Brussels in February 2007.
From left to right: Toni Liedlbauer, Roel Rotshuizen, Bjorn van Heusden,
Günther Trausznitz, Valère Jung and Rolf Weber.

Meanwhile, also had to be tried to stop the loss of Western European members of the International Trade Union Federations (ITF's). The departure of ACV and CNV trade unions from the ITF's was a serious financial and organizational loss. European trade unions dropped out because they claimed not to get enough support for their international trade union action. The unions in the Third World were organisationally and financially to weak and lacked a financially independent trade union culture. They leaned too much on their national and international trade union federations and the regional organizations. Decentralization of power, finances, accountability and responsibility remained problematic in the existing regional structures.

Now, 14 years later, I had to conclude that the WCL had not come out of the doldrums. Apparently, I had been unable to convince enough people to maintain the WCL against the trends of the times. One of those trends is of course the secularization, with one of the consequences that the social christian principles on which the WCL was built, were not so obvious anymore as foundation for a broad-based trade union movement. However these social christian values had not lost nothing of there significance for the society. On the contrary, many of the social christian principles had become commonplace in the trade union movement such as the social dialogue instead of class struggle, and the insight that private companies are an important source of employment and investment.

WOW president Roel Rotshuizen meets Dan Cunia from the ILO Actrav Department during
the ILO Conference in July 2008.

Simultaneously neoliberal capitalism and the consumer society triumphed, both built on market fundamentalism and capitalism with the walfare state as an outcome. Mass consumption became the highest ideal of society, also for the trade unions. Therefore, a lot of social christian oriented trade unions ended up as part of this capitalist materialism. In short, the struggle for wages meant more members, spiritual values were out of time. Spiritual life henceforth was a private matter for which you have to go to church. Anyway, for spiritual values, you had not to look for in the trade unions. The result was that solidarity was stripped of its spiritual dimensions, it became a marketing concept based mainly on the principle of redistribution of income and capital. An exclusive materialistic concept.

There were also internal causes for the decline of the WCL as for example the inability to reconcile organization and priorities with the financial revenues. Self-restraint would have been a good thing, as well as decentralization and delegation of responsibilities towards the continents. Now, each continent wanted to have its “own man” in Brussels with everything that goes with it. A smaller organization with fewer staff could have been equally effective at international level, provided that there would be a clear prioritization and effective division of roles between the member organizations.

View of the WOW World Congres in September 2012, Vancouver Canada.

One of the biggest obstacles to the membership growth of the WCL was the fact that new memberships practically spoken stood under the guardianship of the ETUC and in fact of the ICFTU. ETUC members repeatedly vetoed new WCL members, such as the Danish Confederation Krifa and the German CGB. Especially at the ACV this was a sensitive issue because of its position in the ETUC and its national rival, the socialist FGTB. The practical effect was that the WCL had already lost its autonomy and independence even before it was formally dissolved.

That the Dutch CNV bowed for the pressure of the ACV, to accept the abolishment of the WCL might be explained by the fact that Europe already has its own established social model based on the social dialogue and clear rules that apply to the government, employers and trade unions. The European "social economic game" is played by the ETUC. The ITUC has little or no influence. Quite the opposite, the European trade union movement is one of the game setters in the ITUC.

FPE Secretary General Koffi Zounnadjala, also vice president of the WOW,
with moto-taxistas, a project to support young people to have their own taxi motor,
Togo 2012

In Latin America, the role of trade unions in state and society is by no means defined. The social dialogue hardly exists and regulations are inadequate or sometimes even anti- trade union. In some countries there is not even freedom of trade union movement. Based on social Christian values, CLAT always fought for democracy and social dialogue like for example exists in the European Union. CLAT had nothing to do with state oriented socialism as for example in Cuba. CLAT also did not want the North American model of capitalism without social dialogue. North American trade unions are in fact a kind of “labor organized company” within an enterprise or economic sector. Therefore, it is curious that CLAT merged into the Inter-American organization TUCA-CSA (Trade Union of the Americas) in which the North American AFL-CIO is one of the major social-economic game setters. The question now will be what kind of social-economic model the TUCA-CSA will promote for Latin America.

Participants of the XXV Ordinary National Congress of the National Association of Journalists of Cusco, Peru, September 2015. The reelected ANP President Roberto Mejia is also Vice-President of WOW and President of the regional federation FELATRACCS.