Breslau, 11. und 12. April 2008
Congratulations to the organizers of the First Christian Social Week – in the sense of bringing together for the very first time a lot of social actors in a town of your country - which has its own historical importance for that.
Thanks for having invited us, the European Centre of Worker's Questions to these important days.
The party responsible for being here is the Centre Nowy Staw, Lublin: Tomasz Rózniak and his colleagues who are a member of our educational network.
We have had a lot of seminars together – so also at historical places, e.g. the Kings Palace and in Sejm in Warsaw – but also a lot of other places in your wonderful country.
Our contribution to your Christian Social Week is – of course – a common issue:
An issue belonging to the employment area which takes the longest time of everybody's live – about forty years in general.
The subject of my speech is giving you already a direction – what it means for our societies:
Education – Responsibility and our common work -
It already shows us the VALUE of work, focussed on our abilities during our live – and let me add: Either we are paid for that or not.
I would like to speak about
- the value of work, for us, for the society,
- the structures, e.g. Social Dialogue,
- the importance of education and employment
- what are today's important challenges and
- working together – as EZA members do
As a red line you will find: education and our responsibility for this.
Work is – since centuries - one of the elements which is timeless and fundamental, always actual, always demanding attention, always full of challenges and always necessary looking critical to it.
Work is a characteristic element to fill up our existence – physically and spiritually.
Through work a person has to look for his and his family's daily 'bread' or survival – and satisfaction.
But we all know that it is more:
How somebody is working or acting, how he is integrating the others, how he takes decisions in his work – this shows us a lot about himself or herself.
We are expressing our personality by working.
It reflects also our position in the family, at work and in the society.
When we see, that he or she is working with her 'heart and soul' means:
If somebody's heart is 'beating for himself and for others', there is a lot of 'social capital' which can grow in a society.
If not, we can find a lot of negative individualism and fragmentations – in personal relations and in public structures, internal and external.
The employment area and the society as a whole is – at any time - reflecting both - like a mirror.
The question is: Where are we going to? - and here it is our responsibility fighting for social justice in order to receive or to keep social freedom.
It is true that Europe's soul is a social one – created by Christian values: Solidarity, Subsidiarity and Personality.
These values have to be kept and have to be defined by each of us – day by day, also at the work place.
Reflecting the 'Parable of the workers in the vineyard' - you all know: where the employer has given the same wage to the worker who started his work in the afternoon as well as the worker who started in the morning - and comparing this with today's situation means: we are living actually in two different worlds -
A world which is more and more an 'achievement-oriented society' – which will result in a split society – these societies need sooner or later a system where everybody has an income which covers the necessary requirements – as in the parable. There are already interesting political proposals existing – e.g. from the KAB Germany - but in today's growing capitalistic surrounding these proposals sound strange in the ears of the politicians.
What I want to express is:
The value of work is a part of the value of our human being – it is belonging together - as a core, arising from our Christian social attitude.
The frame work for a successful life are well structured rules – juridical, institutional and political – conditions for a human dignified order in economy, society, as a state and in international relations –
These areas are covered by the Social Dialogue, where Social partners (employers and employees) with or without the Government – or the European Commission - are active in employment policy.
They are structured from the company level, local and national level to the European level - and the Trade Unions also on global level.
Europe today is 'in between' – receiving more and more importance between globalisation and localisation.
Meanwhile there are 34 branches on European level having regularly consultations.
Regarding Globalisation there is more and more attention given to the European Works Councils in order to prevent workers from losing their jobs or receiving at least some social security.
Social Dialogue is a very important structure for keeping and learning democratic principles, leading to - or keeping social freedom.
What is the reason why so many young people are not interested in it?
We should find an answer for that.
The fact that the Right to Education is a basic human right and mentioned in a range of laws – will say: the importance of education, of our work is a high ranking task.
EZA is combining the value of work, the subjects for a qualified work by educating workers.
When Dominique de Villepen, former French Prime Minister said immediately after refusing the European Constitution in France: “That what Europe needs now are Projects, Projects and Projects again – in order to go forward with the integration of the people.”
EZA does a lot of projects.
Let me start with the Lisbon Treaty, signed in December last year, and now on the way being ratified by the 27 member states.
Our concern was: Is EMPLOYMENT POLICY sufficient considered in the Treaty?
We are now able to verify:
Our work has a place in this new chapter of European politics, as the Treaty explicitly addresses
- the promotion of employment,
- the improvement of living and employment conditions,
- social dialogue,
- preservation of the social partners’ autonomy.
If these elements - education and Social Dialogue are stipulated in laws, there must be the precondition established in achieving our goals.
- It's a good perspective for the future!
Our goal can be described as 'educating and 'forming' employees– in such a way that they are able to play their roles as an employee, for their families and within society responsibly and with confidence – always and at all times’.
The Lisbon Treaty expands on this common goal in – in my opinion – a highly original way:
The preamble to the Treaty (as opposed to that of the EU Draft Constitution) has been changed to the effect that Europe is to represent an inspiration to its citizens:
We can learn there:
“Drawing INSPIRATION from the cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe, from which have developed the universal values of the
inviolable and inalienable rights of the human person, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law…”
How can INSPIRATION be coupled with EDUCATION?
Apart from the fact that both of these concepts make a wonderful combination they - due to our Christian-occidental culture and values - provide a sound basis for future action:
To us, Christian inspiration is about striving and working towards an ideal, about being proactive and responsible.
This idea of striving towards an ideal is for us further emphasised by including the concepts of culture, religion and humanism.
These principles represent a sound basis for holding meaningful dialogues, develop projects, contribute to the integration of Europe and: to enjoy the success of this process.
Areas of activity that we are involved in and where we can work in responsibility are:
- the integration of migrants,
- young and old people’s integration into the labour market,
- improving employee's rights in the companies – not only with a better 'communication and information',
- also with more ethical codex – in companies, in the economy including the actual subject of finances;
- social integration and the reduction of poverty (2010 – year of social inclusion) and
- gender equality – one of today’s most topical issues,
- reconciliation between family and work –
All these are wonderful tasks to fulfil on the Christian-social way of acting.
Our contribution to this process of European integration therefore also contributes to creating greater social justice.
When comparing the present situation with our visions for the future, it becomes pretty clear what needs to be done.
Unfortunately, present-day education opportunities are often tightly linked to social background and status, financial resources and existing educational structures.
The most important objective pursued by educational policy, i.e. increasing economic competitiveness, speeds up the downward spiral of social exclusion of those who are socially disadvantaged – a process that is also associated with costs for social support, social integration and the justice system.
Educational policy at all must not be allowed to contribute to splitting societies, but must rather be used to facilitate mutual understanding in an integrated society.
Our way of working in nearly all European countries (and candidate countries) is already 23 years old.
Together with about 60 workers’ organisations from the Christian social area we are organising about 60 different projects per year – of course: in a subsidiarity way:
Members apply for a project which deals with the most important subject in their employment surrounding –
We ask the European Commission if these projects are suitable with their criteria –
if yes: everybody starts with the preparation: drafting a programme and inviting stakeholders from many other countries = this is a European added value.
The results have to be evaluated and distributed to all the other members, other groups of interest and for the political area on national and European level.
Very often the projects lead to new projects within our network or on individual bilateral level – without EZA.
Arising from our work – new Platforms have been created with subjects like Migration, Equal Chances or Social Inclusion. These Platforms are at the same time a pool for acquiring speakers and participants for the seminars.
It's an intensive networking – consisting of the elements I have mentioned to you. We are looking forward continuing with our work – perhaps you can promote this, too.