[email protected] on ‘Workers and Covid-19’: What lessons for trade unions and interest representation?

October 7 saw a further edition of CESI’ lunchtime event series [email protected], which was held together with the Bertelsmann Stiftung on the topic of ‘Covid-19 and the future of work: What lessons for interest representation and trade unions?’ A central take home message: While the Covid crisis has meant a substantial challenge not only for workes but the organisation of trade unions too, it has also brought opportunities and paved the way for an re-invented, even more attractive and important trade unionism.

In a debate with stakeholders from the different EU institutions, permanent representations of the Member States, European social partners, civil society organisations, and of course, members of CESI, this point of view on the potential of the crisis was shared by all speakers:

Gabriele Bischoff, MdEP, European Parliament, Committee on Employment and Social Affairs
• Javier Jordán de Urríes Sagarna, Justice Sector President, Spanish Central Independent and Public Employees’ Trade Union (CSIF)
• Ricardo Rodriguez, Research Manager, European Foundation of the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound)
• Denis Pennel, Managing Director, World Employment Confederation (WEC)

Most notably, from the discussion, two sets of action fields emerged for trade unions:

First, trade unions need to proactively and constructively shape employment in the Covid and post-Covid world of work, as social partners and together with policy makers and employer representatives, which refers to ensuring high occupational health and safety levels for workers, the protection of jobs and access to adequate social protection, and the regulation of strong and effective labour rights in areas such as home office and remote working.

Secondly, they must seek to re-invent themselves and their services in order to cater not only for the interests of their members but also for those of other workers and groups of workers, in particular those that have been hit especially hard by the crisis, thus using their work to profile themselves and reach out to grow in membership and, by extension, importance.