SNCF EWC Steering Committee Members, Gerrit Vink and Laurent Compagnon,attended on Wednesday 10th and Thursday 11th of October 2018, the Annual EWC Conference in Brussels organised by the European Trade Unions Confederation (representing 45 millions members from 90 trade union organisations in 38 European countries).
The agenda this year focuses on the ‘More Democracy at Work’s Campaign to highlight and demand a better European legislation to give negotiating rights to workers through their European Works Councils Representatives.
Democracy doesn’t stop at work and this campaign is part of a broader approach for a more Social Europe.
Currently employers too often do not even follow procedures set up in the European directive 2009/38/EU on giving out information nor consulting with the EWC representatives and sanctions are ineffective.
This is the right time to demand changes as the European elections for MEP are next year in May 2019.
Guest speakers included Stefan Olsson of the European Commission, Aline Conchon from IndustriAll Europe, Herman Sogeber from EWC Unilever.
The point was made to the European Commissioner that not enough had been done in over 10 years to improve and to strengthen legislation. Meaningful commitment is needed to give real power to EWCs into decision making, at all level, affecting workers like company’s strategy and especially with the current hot topic of digitalisation in the work place.
On Wednesday afternoon, conference’s attendees went in front of the European Parliament to demonstrate for the campaign ‘More Democracy at Work’ supported by MEPs from different political groups.
Thursday morningstarted with the theme of Digitalisation’s challenges drawing from experiences of EWCs members from Engie, AXA, Oerlikon and EWC coordinators.
Digitalisation at home and in the workplace is growing and changing at such a fast pace that law and policy makers are always behind.
As well as positives impacts on users and workers, digitalisation is also guilty of:
· ‘Uberising’ work; increasing casual work, lowering working terms and conditions and pay rate.
· Lines between private and work are blurred; ‘The right to disconnect’, data such as geolocation used against workers in disciplinary.
· Jobs are being lost too; rail ticket offices, shops are closing and customers are forced to buy online.
There is a worrying prediction that by 2030 Artificial Intelligence machines will be smarter than humans.
It is important that EWCs get involved now into the digitalisation strategy of their company by taking the initiative to study the amount, the use and impacts of digitalisation on the workforce.
The last topic of the daywas on the impact of Brexit on EWCs with a panel formed of Gerry McCormack (Deputy General Secretary, SIPTU), Stephen Schindler (EFBWW), Barry Firth (EEC Coca Cola UK) and Janet Williamson (TUC).
Since the UK voted to leave the EU, nobody knows what’s going to happen but everyone is preparing for the worst.
It is essential in the interest of workers that EWCs based in the UK and UK EWC Representatives continue to exist and participate in this industrial and trade union relationship.
Already some companies want to take advantage in a negative way in stopping that relationship like Coca Cola.
Advice has been given on how to manage this issue within the EWCs. Your EWC Representatives will be briefed during our next preparatory meeting of the EWC meeting of December 2018.
Peter Scherrer, ETUC Deputy General Secretary and Chair of the Conference, took the floor to conclude the day with a reminder of Unity amongst Workers and Trade Unions against attacks on workers’ rights to decent pay and working conditions.
Peter will not seek re-election in May 2019. This was then his last EWC Annual Conference as DGS and Chairman.
Many thanks to Peter, Barbara Boyle and the rest of their team for making this Conference 2018 a success.
SNCF EWC Assistant Secretary