Friday, May 18, 2012


Profesor Milan Katuninec spoke on the European Seminar of WOW in Vienne on the Social Dialogue in Central and Eastern Europe (EZA sponsored). We have already published on this blog two parts of his speech: "Why Unions lose power in Central and Eastern Europe" and "The rise of individualism". Below you find the third and the last part.

Besides the increasing individualism, the trade union movement has to contend with another big challenge. Trade unions can not ignore the „birth of nearly one hundred new types of power-scrutinizing institutions unknown to previous democracies.“ Democracy offers space for individual and social emancipation. This will cause constant tension between solidarity and freedom and there will always remain a countervailing power and collective labor agreement will always be needed. But the old rule of „one person, one vote, one representative“ is replaced by the new principle of monitory democracy, „one person, many interests,... multiple representatives“.

 Political scientist John Keane sees in modern information technologies an important stimulus to halt the declining public interest not only in political, but in fact in the whole social life of the home, as well as internationally.  The world has become increasingly diverse and this is the challenge for the trade unions. Effective public debate about freedom, justice, toleration and solidarity requires that employees, students as well as other citizens are well-informed. Trade unions, in the competition of various interests must take advantage of the new possibilities of information networks.

Social-economic factors will always play an important role in the political assessments of social partnership. Politics can only be understood in an economic and social context and all efforts to separate social and economic problems usually result in political problems. It requires a democratic society and socially-minded citizens who, in their own interest, are freely engaged in public and social interests and do not remain passive observers of social change.

But looking forward, the trade union movements should revitalize themselves by the use of greater internal reflection and by a responsible reaction to many new social challenges. The question is, whether their leaders will meet the hopes of the trade union members and whether employees will realize that the membership is very important for the authority and the bargaining power of the trade union? Or whether the trade union movement will continue suffer from undervaluing of external changes and weakening of social responsibility? Can trade unions save themselves or will their position deteriorate in the future and will they only remain as a decoration of public policy? 
I do not think that during the current economic and social crisis will the trade union movement in Central and Eastern Europe become more powerful. But despite the decline of trade union membership, we can not say that the idea of social justice in Central and Eastern Europe is unpopular. This leads me to believe that the trade unions, by taking into account new factors and challenges and making concrete proposals on strategies to improve social dialogue, will be more attractive and will have substantial opportunities for their active and responsible social policy.   

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