Editorial of the Secretary General: Summer Deals and Summer Days

Editorial of the Secretary General: Summer Deals and Summer Days

Now that the top EU posts seem to have been attributed, time to take stock of this week’s ‘Summer deals’:

Firstly, it becomes apparent that it will be increasingly difficult to steer the European Union. Having seen the Summit camping close to our offices for so long with endless police escorts and sirens, delegations being shuttled around, one can only imagine what this has meant for politicians and their Sherpas. To sort out the Gordian Knot has never been as difficult.

Secondly, the first plenary session in Strasbourg gave a quite clear distinct image of what we can expect in the coming years and months. Not to stand up for the European anthem is one thing, turning your back on it is another. Whatever the reasons for the Brexit vote -no comment on that-, turning one’s back to the performers of the anthem is also a punch in the face of the 48.1% of British voters who voted ‘Remain’.

Thirdly, and as stated in a previous editorial, the heads of states and government totally ignored the ‘Spitzenkandidaten’-formula – hence also the European Parliament’s preferences. Regardless of the question if Ms von der Leyen is qualified for the job, parachuting a candidate in such manner is undermining phrases which had called for more transparency and democracy at EU level. If this had happened in countries on our “democratic blacklist”, we would easily have called it “deception of voters” (punishable by law in not few states). It will unfortunately validate the myth that the big decision in Brussels are really taken via unaccountable back-room deals. And as an ultimate paradox, citizens will end up blaming “the EU” for it.

However, the desperate search for a compromise was definitely more than just a cheap horse trading performance and shady backroom-deal. The cacophony of so many levels, parties, governments and institutions trying to find an agreement remains unique in times and styles dictated by Trump, Salvini, Duterte and friends. Of course, Germany and France are running the show; yet it may be their last time. The resistance to their predominance will continue to increase – and will have impacts on further nominations in the future, possibly even to the detriment of Manfred Weber who was promised the second half-term of the European Parliament Presidency.

Finally, the classic political duopoly of EPP and S&D has passed its zenith. In our digital and social media age, the tendency to bypass “intermediary bodies” will be the decisive challenges for democracy, representation and governance; and also for our traditional concepts of social cohesion as upheld by civil society, social partners and trade unions. For better or for worse.

***

This happened to be the broader context of our SUMMER DAYS: As especially platform work is expected to be increasingly decoupled from time, place, colleagues, employers, trade unions and other communities, the classical structures and interconnections of the industrial age may be challenged.

In my concluding remarks, I quoted a Dutch Professor, Jan Rothman: “We are going from the centre to the periphery, from the vertical to the horizontal, to a movement no longer from the top to the bottom, but from the bottom to the top.”

As disruptions are the new norm, also trade unions will have to question the traditional interrelations of the industrial age. To defend the interest of our members and our positions as recognised social partners is one thing, but having to adapt to the realities and challenges of new forms of works is another.

In order to remain relevant intermediaries, trade unions must increasingly represent atypical workers. So that disruptions do not have devastating effects on individuals. Re-coupling workers to communities, employers, trade unions will be key – in order to ensure social protection, access to social rights and interest representation.

***

We wish you nice summer days, and we look forward to the second part of 2019 – hopefully with your support and engagement! All workers count.