On the edge of a social crisis – Fight against precarity and reclaiming the future
Confirmed by the EL-Network Meeting of trade Unionists Nov. 12. 2011 in Athens.
Employment and the fight against unemployment are fundamental concerns for Europe’s young people. The labour movement faces an enormous challenge in Europe. The working and living conditions of millions of Europeans are caught up in the wake of what is referred to as the casualisation or precarisation of employment. We are confronted with a far-reaching crisis of social security systems, increasing uncertainty, people being deprived of their rights, and the destandardisation of employment contracts. Youth are generally the first to lose their jobs in times of economic contraction and the latest to gain employment when the economy rebounds. In the EU-27 more than every fourth young person was out of work in September 2011.
Young people are increasingly faced with existential anxiety – the fear of falling off the social ladder. As they look for a trainee position or a job, they find themselves in a weak bargaining position vis-à-vis potential employers. Unfortunately, this fear is often what leads many into agency work, internships or seriously underpaid jobs. Young people are increasingly forced to sell themselves below their market value in order to gain work experience and to broaden their skills.
The casualisation of working conditions began with the extension of agency or temporary work, fixed-term and low-paid employment, the imposition of part-time work, dependent self-employment, and mini-jobs falling outside the scope of collective agreements which have been promoted through social policy; in a nutshell, all forms of employment that do not provide access to sustainable livelihoods and which fall well below accepted levels of income and protection. These jobs offer no security and no prospects, and are nothing short of exploitation. Casualisation affects all workers – it is a lever which, due to the trickle-down effect, is being used to cut back all labour and social rights as well as social standards.
We know that casualisation in Europe is not part of a natural process; it is politically driven and therefore it is also reversible. We are a part of an anti-neo-liberal alliance which has taken up the fight for a better life in Europe. Europe is currently the project of the neo-liberal elite. They are using the present debt crisis to push for capital-oriented and anti-labour reforms in the member states. The deficit strategies, which are usually prepared in a black box out of view, have far-reaching consequences for the future prospects of young Europeans.
W e are on the edge of another crisis. We have the financial crisis, but also a social crisis; and it is growing. The crisis is not just a problem for the treasuries of the bankrupt countries, but also has fatal consequences for the population. The economic protection is putting forward by the governments, deficit strategies were created. To have a growth strategy that means putting people (back) into work and investing money into jobs. It is time to put forward the social dimension and talk about job strategies for people.
So we need policy measures that …
… ease the transition from school to working life for young people, so that they are not forced take precarious or underpaid jobs.
… avoid that working experience programs for young people were used by employers to exploit them.
… invest in the quality of free, public education and training and improve its relevance to social needs.
… develop a sustainable strategy for job creation with the target of full employment.
… include accompanied job recovery strategies by policies to reduce youth poverty and social exclusion.
… use collective negotiations and agreements to implement fixed rates for hiring young people or to transform civil contracts into permanent contracts.
… improve the quality of jobs that give young people dignity, financial security, learning opportunities, up-skilling possibilities.