Profesor Milan Katuninec of the Slowakian Trnva Univeristy spoke on the WOW seminar on the social dialogue in Europe in Vienna. We have the pleasure to publish three parts of his speech. Below you find the second part that can also be useful for trade unions elsewhere in the world.
The young generation has to deal with individualism, that influences for example the negative demographic trend. And this is one of the greatest dangers for the welfare state, because the population is getting older and the number of contributors to the state treasury declines. We can not close our eyes and ignore the fact of increased pressure on state budgets of countries with developed economies. It is also one of the reasons that cause the increases of the national debt. In Slovakia, which has 5.4 million inhabitants in the next decade it could be theoretically to 700,000 retired people. Compared with ten years ago it is about a quarter more.
Society based on individual activity emphasizes the power of the individual and presents successful people as a model. An unwritten law arises from this that the world belongs to the strong and powerful. This more individualized generation considers that the best way to negotiate about salaries, working conditions and benefits is to deal with the manager directly, rather than rely on a union representative.
Many of hardworking young people, that place high demands on themselves, consider a democratic society only as a society of individuals engaging in responsible behavior. They see in trade unions a player with a single but dangerous slogan: „us“ and „them“, which, especially in strategic important sectors, polarize society into a black and white world and mobilize negative emotions, and especially trade unionists of some smaller organizations are using their positions for making life difficult for innocent citizens who often became hostages of their strikes.
Trade unions should not become an instrument of selfish interests, but promotion of legitimate social claims or expression of disagreement with the abuse of political and financial power is very important. It is clear that strikes are a political activity, because politics is governance, but there is a difference between political activities and party activities, what in the recent past did not understand even some ministers in Central and Eastern Europe.
Economic and social problems, corruption, arrogance of financial and political power, links between financial and political world, in which the political one found itself particularly in the subordinate role, evoke a feeling of injustice and mobilize people to protest actions. However, the unorganized rebellion and similar radical activities have often ended in anarchy, violence and politically abuse and tended to promote selfish goals, rise of extremism and weaken the parliamentary system of representative democracy. That is why the government but also the trade unionists must realize the importance of social partnership. But I do not think, that trade unions should be associated mainly with strikes and protests. It is necessarily to show to the young people a different face of trade unions - importance of quality culture of social partnership.
Even though man with his human dignity emerges as an individual, he is at the same time also a social being and social relationships penetrate his individuality. However successful he is, he cannot erase from himself this part of his being and cannot cover his eyes so as to not see the demands of social policy. The creative powers of the free market also have to join the protective regulations of social policy, which includes a permanent balance among the different demands of the people. The basis for such legislation should be personal as well as a common responsibility, competition and solidarity, and performance and social balance.