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Home / Resources / News / Citizens’ consultation on work, welfare and precarity in Europe: findings for the Citizens Manifesto

Citizens’ consultation on work, welfare and precarity in Europe: findings for the Citizens Manifesto

On the way towards a social Europe: citizens’ consultation on work, welfare and precarity in Europe
Saturday April 27th 2013, 13:00-15:00
Supermarkt Berlin, Brunnenstraße 64, 13355 Berlin
You can find the programme here (in German)

Click here to download the proposals.Findings

Discussion tables: issues discussed and introduction to the key proposals

The proposals numbered below were elaborated through discussions using the World Café methodology. They reflect the opinions held by the majority of those who participated in the public consultation, even though their opinions and ideas often displayed a variety of positions. Some of the proposals were developed on several discussion tables, but for the sake of clarity, similar concerns have been merged together.  If you wish to react to or comment on a proposal – or even suggest new ideas – please use the “comments” box at the bottom of the page.

Youth precarity and new forms of precarity:
Moderator: David Schmidt, European Alternatives

Between numerous unpaid internships and high unemployment rate, alternative projects to precarity have developed throughout Europe. What could be shared at the European level? What could we call for and demand for Europe so that the future of Europe really belongs to youth? How to help young people cope (practically but also psychologically) with precarity? We will base this on a project led by European Alternatives local group in London on young people and precarity (find out more with these animationand survey). Who are the new precarious workers? What measures could be taken to fight the neo-liberal agendas towards more flexibility in the work place at the expense of social rights (in particular of already vulnerable groups)?

1. Set European standards for internships: Internships must not turn into permanent substitutes for regular employment: Interns should be better protected legally against exploitation. Companies should, e.g., provide evidence that only a certain small share of the work is done by interns, so that they do not turn into permanent substitutes for regularly paid employees. Furthermore, internships should also be available to newcomers, who so far have been at a disadvantage compared to applicants with often many years of internship experience. One instrument would be a corresponding quota that could at the same time prevent companies from offering only internships to those who are sufficiently qualified. Standards for internships are to be introduced, such as having a schedule determining the intended learning process or the assignment of an internship mentor. A third party will control the compliance of these rules. Internships should be paid.
2. Develop apprentice schemes, whereby young people could be trained at school while working in parallel in a company as an apprentice (“duale Ausbildung” in Germany, “apprentissage” in France). Depending on their size, companies that do not offer apprenticeships should pay a ‘training levy’ to support (small) vocational training companies.

3. Focus on education: we cannot save money on education and sacrifice young people’s future on the altar of austerity. If there is one area where cuts should be stopped immediately all over Europe, it is education. Classes should be smaller, teachers should be better rewarded and recognised and more money should be spent on education overall.

4. Strengthen access to information on perspectives, especially for young unemployed people:What is out there? Where am I needed? What am I talented at? What would I enjoy doing? Better information about existing choices would facilitate the access to labour and thus help putting the right to work into reality. The employment agencies should consider people under the age of 25 in a particular way and help them plan their future, offering them new perspectives possibilities of trainings to match the skills they lack.

5. Foster gender equality: with young people, women have been particularly hit by the crisis (about 75% of part-time workers in the EU are women – for 1 out of 3 part-time workers, this is involuntary). For the same position, women should earn the same salary as men. In order to revert the male-dominated positions on top of the hierarchy (in all or most sectors of society – in 2012, only 2% of CEOs in Europe were women), gender quota (for instance when assigning board members or filling job vacancies) are one of the means to help fight discrimination against women in the work place.

Unemployment and social security
Moderators: Sebastian Steinbach, European Alternatives

In what ways should society protect those who lose their jobs or those who are unable to find employment? What happens to your pension if you move country over the course of your career? What minimum rights should be granted to the unemployed? What basic family policy should exist in Europe guaranteeing maternity and paternity rights as well as gender equality?

6. Grant basic rights unconditionally and exclude sanctions from the social security system: It should not be part of a social security system to bring people into work by threatening them with withdrawing payments. Welfare fraud is in many cases more than compensated by benefits underpayment (in particular for migrants), and is very small compared to what fiscal evasion and tax fraud cost: sanctions should in priority focus on the latter types of frauds.

7. Prevent that basic rights are undermined on behalf of economic growth: economic growth should not prevail over citizens’ basic rights. The EU should change its priority from the pursuit of economic growth and the reduction of unemployment (at the cost of decent working conditions and based on the idea of full employment) to social protection for all in Europe.

8. Reduction of working hours for a fairer distribution of existing paid occupations: Less work for the individual, more work for all. Distribute paid volume of work in a socially just way among all who are interested and qualified in order to shield individuals from overwork caused by companies’ cost efficiency calculations and subsequent staff reductions.

9. Make job applications anonymous:make applications anonymous to categorically rule out the hurdle of discrimination based on skin colour, name, age, sex/gender, religion or other characteristics of appearance.

10. Reform legislation for temporary work and labour leasing in a socially acceptable way: Temporary work should only serve as a makeshift to companies, but must not be used as a supply of cheap, precariously employed workers. Temporary workers – due to their dynamic work situation, the permanent adjustment to new jobs and workplaces, and the higher stress factor of their life situation – must get more than the standard wage, e.g., 25% more than a permanent employee in the same position + allowance during working hours + allowance for journey to and from work + 25% higher holiday entitlement + additional health insurance coverage.

11. Remunerate socially valuable work: occupations such as in education and care (e.g., of children or elderly people) should be remunerated accordingly. This would be fair for those (often women) who do this often very challenging and demanding work and would also create public consciousness for the value of such occupation.12.Remunerated voluntary occupation instead of forced short term jobs: give the possibility to long-term unemployed people to work voluntarily for an „individually or socially needed job”, remunerated thanks to the money that went so far into administrating the distribution of forced short term jobs for unemployed people (see German case).

Basic social rights in Europe
Moderator: Franziska Helms, Attac Berlin

What are minimum conditions of fairness and dignity in working life and how should these be guaranteed in Europe? What is a fair wage? What are decent working hours? What is fair treatment at work?

13. Ensure basic security for elderly: basic security for elderly is a publicly guaranteed pension based on the living wage that is paid once a person retires. It should shield from poverty among the elderly (also among those who did pay into the pension scheme) and balance possible times in which nothing had been paid into the scheme (e.g. due to raising children, unemployment, etc.).

14. Social security must fulfil the standard of dignity: Social security must provide the “basic equipment” for a worthy and integrated form of existence in an already existing society. Social security must not lead to a noticeable categorization of a “lower caste” and thus to discrimination and social exclusion.

15. Right to schooling and education; enable lifelong learning: Everyone should at all times have the opportunity to get (further) education. Education in this regard is not an economic good but qualifies people for diverse, not primarily commercial activities and contributes to reducing prejudices and to finding solutions for social problems.

16. Make housing applications anonymous: Make applications anonymous when applying for usually scarce affordable housing space for socially disadvantaged people, in order to categorically rule out the hurdle of discrimination based on skin colour, name, age, sex/gender, children, financial situation, religion or other characteristics of appearance.

17. Reduce bureaucracy and make basic social rights and information on them more accessible: reduce the hurdles for social participation caused by incomprehensible or complicated bureaucratic acts. Rules and laws should be designed such that bureaucratic processes can be easily comprehended.

18. Transfer the governing of basic rights to higher institutions: a European tax policy financing a European welfare state could be a solution and should be evaluated.

Reversing the “race to the bottom”
Moderator: Steffen Benzler, European Alternatives

In what way does current European legislation create a ‘race to the bottom’ of workers’ rights, based on delocalisation and social dumping. How could such a trend be reversed? What is the role of trade unions, collective bargaining and other forms of organised action?

19. Harmonize taxationon the European level, in order to avoid reciprocal tax dumping; close tax havens.

20. More redistribution from top to bottom: wealth should be redistributed through property levy, inheritance tax, etc.

21. Regulate and control to ensure compliance with minimum standards: reasonable regulations and better controls to ensure these standards, notably in factories and in construction sites.

22. Contain financial speculation: regulate financial flows, raise the solvency ratio of banks, set up a financial transaction tax

23. Fair, legal, national minimum wages in EU member states, based on the respective cost of living of each country, through an EU directive (ensuring that existing minimum wages are in no case decreased). Comparative (locational) advantages of poor countries in relation to wealthier countries would remain to exist, but a basic security and a mechanism that stops the downward spiral would be introduced. A minimum wage is the lowest remuneration that employers may legally pay to their employees. It can be determined through legal regulation, through fixing it in a generally binding collective agreement or implicitly through prohibiting wage usury. Regulation for a minimum wage can refer to an hourly wage or a monthly wage under conditions of full-time employment.

24. Revertthe primacy of commercialisation over the respect of human rights. Examples of such primacy are fisheries policy and the privatization of water supply.

25. Reform the EU institutionallyby curtailing lobbying, as it privileges financially strong actors that possibly have an interest in precarious employment conditions or at best defend other private interests, by fostering more political debate on clear positions and alternatives for Europe and by giving the European Parliament more powers (such as the election of the Commission), as unique directly elected EU institution.

26. Social security benefits should benefit employees that receive small salaries, not subsidize companies that pay their employees too low wages: this proposal refers notably to the “450-euro jobs” in Germany. The government should not subsidize companies that pay their employees too low wages through social security benefits that balance these small salaries. The returns of publicly subsidized work should benefit the public and not the private sector.

Unconditional basic income
Moderator: Brit Immerthal, Netzwerk Grundeinkommen

The Unconditional Basic Income can be defined by four evaluation criteria: it is universal, individual, unconditional and high enough to ensure an existence in dignity and to ensure social participation. The UBI does not replace the welfare state, but rather complements and transforms it from a compensatory welfare state into an emancipatory welfare state. What can a world with basic income look like? What does this cultural shift mean for society, without work performance and the possession of material goods as measurement of success?

27. Introduction of an unconditional basic income on the European level: The “unconditional basic income (UBI)” is a socio-political financial transfer model through which every citizen, independently of his/her economic situation, receives a legally constituted and for everyone equal financial allowance from the government. This allowance does not have to be reciprocated (transfer payment); it is mostly discussed as a financial service that would already secure a person’s existence without other income or conditional social benefits. The collective decides about its introduction, its amount and its financing

28. Part of services for the public should be made free of charge(e.g., public transport), as part of the unconditional basic income.