Back to basics – uniting the workers in fragmented workplaces

On 24 September the Multikultural Center of Prague organised and hosted a conference in the framework of the project Share – Towards shared interests between local and migrant workers, supported by the European Commission.

The project, of which SOLIDAR Foundation is a partner, will end in late 2018 after having carried out research into social innovation, in particular how changes in the labour market made it more difficult to organise local and migrant workers. The project aims not only at enriching knowledge about this extremely important challenge, but also at providing recommendations for the unions and business associations on how to adapt their structures to the workplaces, to enhance labour and social rights.

The conference was a first opportunity for the project partners to present their policy briefings and discuss their findings with relevant interlocutors, such as Marta Kahancová – Managing Director and Senior researcher at CELSI, the Central European Labour Studies Institute; and Riccardo Ferrara, representing Adl COBAS – an Italian Union fighting for Labour Rights.

It’s not news, but we still face the paradox that in order to protect social rights achievements we need to both innovate and go back to basics. Indeed, this is the main message that was delivered by the authors of the policy briefings – Neda Deneva, Olena Fedyuk, Valentina Longo, and Francesca Vianello – who presented their papers on Solidarity in fragmented social and working contexts.

All three briefings – on research in Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Italy and Spain – stressed that in each of the countries concerned the main challenges for successfully protecting labour rights consist of overcoming the increasing fragmentation between workers in general and, even more, between local and migrant workers. Moreover, the researchers highlighted that solidarity is the only solution, but it works if and only if it unites all the workers concerned – migrant and local – and in all the places affected, meaning that it must act transnationally. In fact, only the unions who succeed in generating such a network will be able to effectively confront social fragmentation, and thus inequalities in the workplace and in society. To promote the upward social convergence that provides the solution to tackling inequalities, EU-wide action is required, if not global. Otherwise, social dumping will persist in Europe and will spread further, permeating each Member State and unravelling social cohesion.

So it is back to basics. Uniting workers is the primary purpose of any trade union, but to succeed in doing so innovative practices are needed in a changed working and social environment.

The project will conclude with a final conference in Brussels in late November, where the authors of the papers will present their findings with the most relevant stakeholders at the EU level. Stay tuned to find out when, where and with whom we will conclude this remarkable work