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.

Saturday, September 19, 2015


Ms.Arletta Bentzen, Chief Happiness Officer, speaking to the seminar audience.

Who thinks of trade unions, does not immediately think of happiness at work. Instead, unions are often in the news with discontent like protests, demonstrations and strikes for higher wages or pensions. Trade unions are quite materialistic oriented on salary and wage increase and only after this of course on the secondary employment conditions like work environment, safety and health as a basis for employee satisfaction. About happiness at work trade unions speak seldom or never.

Yet there was last week a European seminar in Copenhagen, Denmark with the theme "Happiness at work". The seminar was sponsored by the European Commission through EZA and organized and sponsored by the Danish Confederationof Trade Krifa and the international trade union federation WOW. The program featured a variety of speakers from different European countries that shed light on the topic from different angles.

Mr.Prof. Ir. Jan Van Peteghem (left) and Rolf Weber, treasurer of WOW

Professor Jan van Peteghem of the University of Leuven, Belgium laid a solid foundation for the seminar with his review of literature and research on job satisfaction. A for trade unions interesting note was the conclusion that there is but to some extent a direct link between wage and job satisfaction. Once a certain wage level has been reached than the happiness curve flattens rapidly. More wage contributes not necessarily to more job satisfaction. Apparently, there are also important other factors that determine job satisfaction.

Mr. Willem Jelle Berg, member of CNV Board.

CNV board member Willem Jelle Berg of the Dutch trade union confederation CNV then spoke about the experiences with this theme. For the CNV, which was founded about 100 years ago, work has always meant more than just making money. People need recognition and respect for their work, look for professional pride, they want individual responsibility and the opportunity for personal development. Work is the way by which you participate in the community, from your family until your neighborhood, from your city until your country and eventually the world community. An unemployed person feels quickly useless or redundant. Incidentally, work also means volunteering, caring for his family and household work. The CNV has campaigned against factors that stand in the way of happiness at work, such as bullying at work and the ever-increasing stress at work as a result of globalization.

Mr. Soren Fibiger Olesen, President Krifa speaking about the mission statement of Krifa.

Krifa president Soren Fibiger Olesen confirms that for KRIFA as a Christian trade union "job satisfaction" is a central theme. KRIFA wants to help increase the happiness of employees at their workplace. But the question is how to do this in practice? To get an answer on this question, KRIFA launched with two renowned Danish research institutions an extensive investigation. The goal was the composition of a job satisfaction index 2015. The how, what and where of the research was explained at the seminar by the KRIFA communications consultant Mikkel Hundborg. In plain language, he told us about the design of the study, the different variants that play a role in happiness at work, the research literature and the (statistical) elaboration of the data. The results of the research are published in a brochure entitled 'Job Satisfaction Index 2015 What drives job satisfaction? "

In the study, six factors are identified that affect happiness at work: the purpose of your work, leadership, influence, the work-life balance and colleagues. I think all of us recognize those factors and finds them appropriate also to him or herself. The trick is to measure to what extent these factors weight on the total package. A few results are interesting to mention here.

Some exercise made by the participants of the seminar to promote 'happiness at work'.

First, participants were asked what factors they found for themselves important for happiness at work. In order of importance: purpose of the work, colleagues, influence outcomes, leadership and the balance between life and work. After analyzing the questions asked, this ranking proved to be wrong. Indeed, the most important factor for happiness at work is the purpose of work.

The belief that your work has purpose has a strong positive correlation with job satisfaction. In fact, the study shows it is the factor that affects well-being at work at most.”

Based on the results of the research, leadership appeared to be the number 2 important factor and not as was said earlier, namely colleagues.

Leadership significantly affects job satisfaction – and far more tha employees realize.”

Workers want a pat on the back from their boss and does he listen to you? The following factors weighing on the balance happiness at work in order of importance: a balance between work and life, influence and results of your work (achievements). Surprising was that the behavior of colleagues eventually appeared as the last one of importance for the total score on satisfaction.

Participants from Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia listening attentive to one of the speakers at the seminar.

One of the results of the workshops was that some European trade unions have not yet arrived to put this item on their policy agenda for their members, for employers and governments. Some participants, mainly from Central and Eastern Europe, suggested that for their country happiness at work is a luxury because of lack of jobs (unemployment), low wages and poor working conditions. Governments and employers even don't take health and safety as an equally serious question. Because of globalisation employers want above all minimize labor costs.

The answer to this is that health and safety issues also were not always important for the trade union movement but forced by circumstances they were put on the trade union agenda. Now safety and health at the workplace are regulated by legislation and each employer must have an eye for the health and safety of its employees. Additionally, satisfied employees are more productive and more creative allowing the company to produce more than other companies and function better. In short, also from a cost-benefit point of view, for the employer happiness at work is a good thing. But even without these positive side an employer must consider that employees are much more than just money.

Mr. Ing.Mag. Heimo Pilko, Work psychologist and Safety Engineer.

The Austrian psychologist and occupational safety engineer Heimo Pilko told us about practical possibilities in a company to manage the socio-psychological risks of a job. How urgently such control is required, was recently tragically demonstrated by the suicide accident caused by a co-pilot of the airline Germanwings. To understand and decrease the stress risks at work with a potentially negative socio-psychological impact, an evaluation scheme has been developed, on basis of which can be judged by the employer and employee how great these risks are.

The Spanish delegation at the seminar.

How far can you go with the promotion of happiness at work? Arletta Bentzen, Chief Happiness Officer has no doubts that happiness at work will increasingly become important for responsible business. The company where she works at national and international level, focusses on possible techniques to increase happiness at work. She looks to the personal emotions of the employee's, the mutual interaction between employees and the interaction between board, management and employees. On the website of you can find tips and instructions for increasing happiness at work. 

Sunday, August 9, 2015


Solidarity March with the Strike of the Metal Trade Unions, Oss Netherlands 1977
(foto: petrus nelissen)

In April this year, a course on the trade union movement ended with an introduction by Paul de Beer, professor of industrial relations at the University of Amsterdam. He searched for an answer to the question whether the trade union movement still has a future. De Beer advised the trade unions above all to make choices. "Do everything will be fatal at the long run. Do we choose for a trade union with a broad social orientation, or for targeted interests? Past experience shows, according to De Beer, that significant results can be achieved with small steps. Kees van Kortenhof reports in the digital newsletter "The memory of the labor movement", a publication of the "Foundation Friends of the History of Trade Unions".

Solidarity March with Strike of Metal Trade Unions, Oss Netherland 1977
(foto: petrus nelissen)

De Beer looked back on the successes of the labor movement over the last hundred and ten years in the Netherlands. The real wage per labor year has risen sharply while the working hours have decreased. Now an employee earns per hour ten times as much as 100 years ago. If we take the ratio between capital and labor studies of that period, we must conclude, however, that "the French economist Thomas Piketty with his book Capital is right and that the capitalists are on the winning hand.” Job security is higher than in the 19th century but also in the last century there have been crises like also these days, which have led to high unemployment.

De Beer also painted the challenges for the trade union movement of today. Trade union membership is decreasing. In 1980, still one of the three employees were members of a union, currently only 1 out of 6. The share of older people in the movement is large and the degree of organization among 25 year olds and younger is low about 7%. This weakens the legitimacy of actions and statements of the trade union movement. He blamed for this the defensive attitude of the trade unions. Comparing the trade union situation today with that from the sixties and seventies in the passed century: "the political-economic agenda is no longer determined by the trade unions but rather by politics and employers ".
The trade union movement must cease to do everything. That is eventually fatal. It should also be clear which groups will be the target of the trade union movement. Are that only members or all wage earners, or all workers/employees including the self-employed or perhaps also all (indirect) wage earners including beneficiaries and pensioners?

Solidarity March with Strike of the Metal Trade Unions, Oss Netherlands 1977
(foto: petrus nelissen)

Does the trade union reach 2040?
A concluding forum dealt with two questions: does one need to know about the history of the trade union movement? and will the trade union movement still exist in the year 2040? Paul de Beer warned for looking too much backwards because "knowledge of history can also lead to conservatism and adherence to old models." Piet Hazenbosch (management consultant of the Christian trade union confederation CNV and researcher of the history of the CNV), however, believed that when one wants to understand what is going on, you need to know where you come from. According Hazenbosch this time differs fundamentally from the time when the labor movement was born and he warns that the trade union movement is now not adequately related to contemporary social development. He pleads for a return to the 'ideological sources "where we answer the question: Why are we here?". On this matter the Christian trade unionist Hazenbosch and the left-socialist Van der Velden agreed with each other. Van der Velden also laments the loss of ideological depth and vision of the trade union movement on society: " Maybe CNV may have lost less its ideological feathers.” However, as a specialist in the field of Dutch labor relations, he is indifferent to whether the trade union movement in 2040 still will exist: "The trade union is an instrument for achieving certain goals. That's the main point. "

ETUC Protest March, Brussels Belgium 2013
(foto:petrus nelissen)

Union Sundown
Leontine Bijleveld, independent researcher and consultant on women's rights and labor relations and historian, considers knowledge of history essential but in a broad way and as an inspiration for the present. She agrees with her colleagues of the CNV that the trade union movement in 2014 is different from that of the past, but there will always be social movements that make the world a little bit better. Harry Peer, expert on participation and works councils, points to the responsibility of trade unions when it comes to history "because the fundamental training courses are all gone. There is little attention to the reasons of existence of trade unions and what motivates trade unionists. "He fears the American way, where employers with all means keep the unions out. "We talk a lot about the Rhineland model but now the US model is coming to us." Lodewijk de Waal, former chairman of the trade union confederation FNV and now chairman of VHV, closed the meeting wondering about his own optimism. He has grown up with Bob Dylan's song "Times They are Changing." But the same Dylan in the eighties sings about the Union Sundown. Who reads the text of that song can not but conclude that there is still enough work to do for the trade union movement.

Kees van Kortenhof
April 2015

Solidarity March with strike of the Metal Trade Unions, Oss Netherlands 1977

An overview of the trade union movement in the Netherlands 2014.

Again fewer union members, but for a long time more young members
The number of members decreases again in 2014, but more young people have become member of the trade union. The number of female trade union members increases after an occasional dip last year. The number of older members falls.
End of March 2014 the unions had more than 1.7 million members, 30 thousand less than the year before. In all confederations, as well as in non-affiliated trade unions, membership declines. The confederation FN is the largest confederation with more than 1.1 million members.

Growth of young trade union members
The number of young people (under 25) who are members of a trade union, has almost halved compared to the last century. In 1999 the number of young members amounted to 117 thousand, in 2013 that figure was 61 thousand. The decline in the number of young people seems to have ended. Already in recent years the number of younger members decreased barely, in 2014 for the first time there was an increase of six thousand young members . From all trade union members now 3.8 per cent is less than 25 years old. One out of six trade union members is 65 years or older
The number of trade union members in the age between 25 to 65 years declined. The group of members between 45-65 years old still remains the largest group with 906 thousand members. However, this is 19 thousand less than last year. A part canceled their membership, another part remained member, but now belongs to the group of retired trade union members (65 years and older). The number of members that after retirement remained a member of the trade union increased in 2014. The proportion of over-65s stood at 17 percent, which means that out of six trade union members is 65 years or older. Pensioners can often continue to use the services of a trade union for a lower contribution rate.

More women join the trade union
After a decline in 2013, in 2014 slightly more women became a member of a trade union. Their number amounted to 630 thousand.

Bob Dylan, The Times They Are A-Changing, 1964

The lyrics of Bob Dylan's song "Union Sundown"

Well, my shoes, they come from Singapore
My flashlight’s from Taiwan
My tablecloth’s from Malaysia
My belt buckle’s from the Amazon
You know, this shirt I wear comes from the Philippines
And the car I drive is a Chevrolet
It was put together down in Argentina
By a guy makin’ thirty cents a day

Well, it’s sundown on the union
And what’s made in the U.S.A.
Sure was a good idea
Til greed got in the way

Well, this silk dress is from Hong Kong
And the pearls are from Japan
Well, the dog collar’s from India
And the flower pot’s from Pakistan
All the furniture, it says “Made in Brazil”
Where a woman, she slaved for sure
Bringin’ home thirty cents a day to a family of twelve
You know, that’s a lot of money to her

Well, it’s sundown on the union
And what’s made in the U.S.A.
Sure was a good idea
Til greed got in the way

Well, you know, lots of people complainin’ that there is no work
I say, “Why you say that for
When nothin’ you got is U.S.–made?”
They don’t make nothin’ here no more
You know, capitalism is above the law
It say, “It don’t count ’less it sells”
When it costs too much to build it at home
You just build it cheaper someplace else

Well, it’s sundown on the union
And what’s made in the U.S.A.
Sure was a good idea
Til greed got in the way

Well, the job that you used to have
They gave it to somebody down in El Salvador
The unions are big business, friend
And they’re goin’ out like a dinosaur
They used to grow food in Kansas
Now they want to grow it on the moon and eat it raw
I can see the day coming when even your home garden
Is gonna be against the law

Well, it’s sundown on the union
And what’s made in the U.S.A.
Sure was a good idea
Til greed got in the way

Democracy don’t rule the world
You’d better get that in your head
This world is ruled by violence
But I guess that’s better left unsaid
From Broadway to the Milky Way
That’s a lot of territory indeed
And a man’s gonna do what he has to do
When he’s got a hungry mouth to feed

Well, it’s sundown on the union
And what’s made in the U.S.A.
Sure was a good idea
Til greed got in the way

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


Header of the Cuba Weblog

This blog “Melons or Unity, the Cuban trade union movement under Castro”, written by Kees van Kortenhof, has been published in the digital newsletter “The memory of the trade union movement” of the “Friends of the History of the Trade Union Movement”, a Dutch foundation that is dedicated to safeguard the history of the trade union.
Kees van Kortenhof is one of the founders of “Glasnost in Cuba”. The Foundation is set up in 1989 after a visit to Cuba. The aim of Glasnost in Cuba is to support the peaceful human rights movement in Cuba. This year (2015), the Foundation exists 25 years. The Foundation is completely independent, consists only of volunteers and receives no subsidies. The foundation publishes the blog “CUBA” with actual information on everything what happens on the island.

Painter in Cienfuegos, 2008 (Petrus)

When Fidel Castro came to power on January 1, 1959, half of the active population in Cuba was a member of a union. The Central de Trabajadores de Cuba CTC, counted 1.2 million members and 33 trade federations. The confederation was pluralistic and had Catholic, communist, socialist and anarchist members and trade unions. Through the efforts of the CTC were already realized in 1959, the eight-hour day, a minimum wage, the right to strike and employment protection . In addition to the armed struggle of the Castro's in the mountains, the urban resistance, together with the labor movement, was the core of the resistance against dictator Batista.

In January 1959, when rebel groups marched under the leadership of Fidel Castro into Havana, all 33 national headquarters of the Cuban trade union movement were occupied by the urban resistance and were expelled the trade union leaders who had supported Batista. It was time for new - free, democratic and secret - elections that were organized throughout 1959 and that had to culminate in the first revolutionary trade union congress to be held in November of that year. On local level, the mostly anti-Communist Movement of the 26th of July was opposed the supporters of communism. The Movement won almost all local elections. The Communists paid electorally for their reluctant support to the resistance. Had the party not undermined the first armed action of Castro in 1953 with his attack on the Moncada barracks as "adventurism of wealthy bourgeois sons?" Even in the food and textile union federation, the Communists got little support. Within the trade union for sugar cane workers only 15 of the 9,000 delegates sympathized with the Communist Party PSP.

Young Shopservant, Cienfuegos, 2008 (Petrus)


On 18 November 1959, the CTC trade union confederation held its first national congress. Of the 3,200 delegates 200 were communists. The remaining 3,000 were part of the revolutionary 26th of July Movement. It looked that the Communist Party PSP would play no longer a significant role in the Cuban trade union movement. But Fidel Castro decided otherwise. His aversion towards the Communists was changed gradually into appreciation because of the support of the PSP. Moreover, he could use very well the organizing and mobilizing capacity of this party. He spoke 2 times during the trade union congress. In his opening speech, Fidel emphasized the need of “Unidad” (Unity) and said not to like an election circus. Quote: "The only thing what is important here, is the unbreakable solidarity with the Revolution. Is there one worker present here, who does not agree with us? The revolution comes first. (…) Each disunity within the trade union congress, will be a joy for our enemies. (...) Attacks of the enemy, must be answered by discipline. "

Campesino, Vinales 2008 (Petrus)

Soldiers on the trade union congress

But the trade union representatives did not seem convinced. After all, after years of dictatorship, they had come to talk and to debate freely and to cast their votes in freedom. It appeared that of the 33 trade union federations at the congress 27 did not want communists in the CTC Board. Uproar broke out among the 3,200 delegates. There was a fight between the supporters of the Communist Party and the others. "Unidad, unidad (unity)," shouted the first ones. 'Melones, Melones (melons),' replied the members of the Movement of the 26th of July. The Communists were compared with watermelons because on the outside they are green (the color of the guerrilla uniform) and inside they are red.

In the early morning of 22 November, Fidel Castro returned in military uniform at the trade union congress, accompanied by a group of armed soldiers. "This is a shameless spectacle", he shouted, and he added the names of three Communists to the list of 13 candidates for the board of the CTC. Castro explained that this addition was necessary for the sake of unity. In that period of the revolution Cuban workers were fond of Fidel Castro and gave him what he asked, but they made clear also to Che, Raúl and Fidel that they never would give up their independent unions. The three additional candidates were defeated in the first round. Then Fidel Castro presented again a list but without the three defeated communists but also without the name of Reinol González, who in 1959 was appointed as international secretary of the CTC. He had led a general strike against Batista and was anti-communist. He came from the Cuban section of the Catholic Labor Youth (YCW). Against these superior power the Congress capitulated. From then on for each function one candidate was presented and the elections took place by raise of hands. The socialist David Salvador became provisional president.

In 1977 Reinol González visited with his wife Teresita the Netherlands. They were hosted by CLAT Netherlands. He talked about his Cuban experiences with the Dutch trade union confederations CNV (Christian) and FNV and also with Amnesty International. González was active in Cuba in the Juventud Obrera Catolica (JOC), the Cuban branch of the international young workers movement. (foto: Petrus)

Jail and prison camps

David Salvador resigned in May 1960 as protest against the takeover of the union apparatus by the communists, . A few months later he was arrested and sentenced to 30 years in prison. Through mediation of Gabriel Marquez, the Colombian writer and friend of Castro, David Salvador was released from prison earlier and left Cuba . Reinol González stayed for 17 years in prison. In 1977 he was released from prison earlier also through the intervention of Gabriel Marquez. In November 1960, the communist trade union bureaucrat Lazaro Peña, was appointed as the new secretary general of the CTC. He was it before, namely in 1939, when the Cuban communists worked together with Batista. The dream of a free trade union movement in a revolutionary Cuba had ended. Free trade union movement was not anymore necessary, according to current President Raul Castro. In these early years of the revolution he tried to convince the Cuban workers that the State Government is the best trade union; workers do not need trade unions as they have a government as friend, it is THEIR government that protects them. "

Kees van Kortenhof
Juli 2015