SENZA CENSURA n.9
Italy, october 2002
PASSWORD : FLEXIBILITY
The job the E.U. would like
In the number 8 of Senza Censura we saw how economic and market reform policies in Italy are very linked to E.U. guide lines. With the "Bill of E.U. fundamental rights" (Bill of Nice) passed in December 2000 by three structures (European Parliament, the Council and the Commission), member countries wanted to synthesize basic elements of a future common area.
The rights in the Bill are clearly "solemn statements" declaring vague principles, which then find their concrete determination into various European treaties and into single states' economic policy.
We can foresee that member countries are going to be a structural part of E.U.'s institutional system, with the consequence that the European institutional architecture will be again formed on public base, and that it will divide competences between the national and the European level.
The Bill though it is not binding for member countries, it can be point of reference and it is able to determine single countries' chooses and future juridical structure.
In fact, the "White Book" many times refers to the Bill of Nice.
For example: "...the same "Agenda of Social Policy", agreed into the European Council in Nice, underlines the importance to adequate the regulation of relationships and labour market, to create a right balance between flexibility and safety, asking to trade unions to continue their dialogue about job organization and about new forms of employment..."
Nevertheless, into various European councils they are imposed intervention lines which single states have to carry into effect. In the meeting of Barcelona in march 2002 they have been faced job policies. The principal aim is to increase employment (till 70% of European population within 2010) and to make Europe forefront of the "knowledge economy".
Even if the aim of the employment is a farce, we have to remember that E.U. rose in the 50s on the initiative of French and German lobbies of coal and steel, to favour the economic development of European factories. The aim was to create an internal market wide enough to correspond with their potential. The present world situation is characterized by a strong competition which is pushing capitals to unite in competing poles: USA, Nippon and Europe.
In the aim to change economic activity in Europe we can understand the present restructuring of in job sectors linked to production (Fiat and Renault) which are left for those sectors which allow a greatest gain in a shortest period of time (energy and telecommunications). This is the situation we have to consider when we undertake a struggle , and now demands are suitable .
The Barcelona Council has indicated to member countries the principles to renew the labour market, briefly the "European Strategy for Employment" consists in eliminating obstacles and disincentives to enter or to stay in the labour world.
It is underlined the necessity to increase flexibility inviting governments to liberalize regulations on contracts. flexibility creates the exigency of a continuous training, functional to company's needs.
It is recommended to allow "the evolution of wages on the grounds of production development", that is lowest wages. This means to legitimate the introduction of differentiate regulations (South Italy, Scotland, Wales...). We have to underline that some trade unions have signed agreements in this sense.
Then it is considered a necessity a gradual increase of 5 years for the board within 2010, and to find incentives for old workers to stay at work , with a gradual retirement.
E.U. is pressing for it is chosen flexibility. This is the main answer governments have done to unemployment. If for statistics this is more employment, concretely for workers this means temporary work, part time, low wages and the birth of a social class under blackmail. this is the consequence of a new job organization characterized by the tendence to pass from fordism to post fordism : a flexible factory which needs a part of flexible labour. So they are trying to solve a possible social clash linked to the problem of a long unemployment.
Into the European imperialistic pole there are two different conceptions of labour market: the first is that of economic liberalism, mostly represented by Great Britain, Spain, Italy and Denmark; the other is social democratic and it is represented by Germany and France. The Anglo-Saxon labour market is characterized by few regulations, that is bargaining to a factory level, and flexibility. The European one is characterized by a greatest quantity of laws and by bargaining to a national and sector level, with more rigidity and an heavy welfare state. These conceptions express a bourgeois point of view and they bring employers' interest. The future European social model is going to be a compromise between these two , but it is going to be determined also by the strength the class struggle will be able to express, because proletariat's perspective has got sense only in the revolution of production, and not between these two solutions.
The fruit is a deregulated market.
In strong restructuring periods, employers think the Anglo-Saxon flexibility system to be more efficient because it allows to dismiss workers easily during crisis periods, and to have many workers during good periods. They have the freedom to engage or to dismiss.
great Britain is insisting to change the labour market. The New Labour Party , a centre-left party, asks for a decreasing of state presence in the economy, a change of social protection systems and an economic strategy able to increase employment into private sector. We have not to forgot that privatisation has carried to a worsening of services, and to labour cuttings, and also to a worse quality of job and safety; English railway is a clear example.
The English government is supported by other countries. On 15th February 2002 there has been a meeting between Great Britain and Italy , which has produced a technique bill about labour market in view of the European council of Barcelona; this bill agrees common opinions on flexibility, private employment service, tax reforms, labour regulations...
We want to report a part of this bill, because it shows clearly the situation we are going to face.
1st point: "An economy and society into which employers and workers collaborate to create a more competitive economy for an elevated increase, for more job and for social cohesion".
In the 2nd point they want to legitimate flexibility: "European economy has changed its structure: modernization, liberalization, globalisation, speed development of information technology and communication technology. Regular job is disappearing."
In the 3rd point we can see an ideological manipulation, in which they say that the structural crisis of capitalistic productive system is produced by lob rigidity, so the solution is flexibility: "European labour markets are characterized by structural problems. So, radical reforms are necessary to face some challenges, to increase employment and to grant the development of economic potential. Some reforms have been done, as the progressive introduction of more flexibility and the realization of active labour policies. Those reforms have made Europe more competitive and to create other job".
In the 10th point they say what to do: "E.U.'s member countries have to modify the existing regulation and to introduce new incentives to reduce obstacles to employment, to introduce a modern way to work. Social parts have to agree about flexible work, part-time, learning during all life and about the participation of women and old people to working life".
The declaration made by Blair and Berlusconi shows how there is a common interest among European governments, they are of left or right.
We have to remember that during the summit of Lisbon in march 2000 Blair presented together with Massimo D'Alema (he was the Italian prime minister)a similar paper about flexibility and welfare reforms. Those papers refer to the European Strategy for Employment , launched in 1998 by Prodi's Italian government. These guide lines about employment are the cultural, politic and technique-scientific heritage of all governments.
The English prime minister has published together with the Sweden premier Goran Perssons an intervention in which they maintain that " labour market needs more flexibility. Economy is threatened by useless regulations. European markets are nit again competitive".
The problem of competitiveness is the most important for employers.
The European employers Union asked for a supportable but also competitive economy, during a meeting with the president of the European Convention for institutional reforms.
They ask to complete the unique market and to promote competitiveness. they say that Europe is late for what regards modernizing labour markets; creating an European financial market; liberalizing transport, developing modern school systems.
They take as example some countries where labour is more flexible (G.B., Spain, Holland).
Only in Netherlands flexible contracts are the 55% , in France and Spain more than the 30%. In G.B. there are not restrictions on the number of flexible contracts. An English temporary worker can be paid less than another having a regular job.
In Spain they can agree on a lower wage when there are particular market exigencies. It is a usual procedure to have recourse to the job on call or to "substitution job".
The international crisis imposes to accelerate this tendency , with a deregulation of labour market, a gradual destruction of the welfare state, an increasing privatisation with the disappearance of the state . This restructuring process is worsening workers' life, and it shows the will to consider workers as merchandise and to win on them.
In France the crisis is investing many sectors. They are privatising public services, with the loss of many conquests of workers. There will be many cuttings. The government is changing regulations regarding dismissals and work hours. Workers are organizing strikes against this situation, as in 1995 when they paralysed the nation for many weeks.
The restructuring process is becoming over national and it is creating a deep clash. Recently we saw struggles of Renault and Danone.
The 3rd october2002 in the whole Europe Alcatel's workers made a great strike, with the participation of Italian workers. The Unilever's workers have organized "Days of European struggle", after the loss of 20000 job posts. They have been collective struggles in the whole Europe with meetings, leaflets, press conferences, etc. And Europe is not again ready to control new possible struggles.
This short analysis wants to be an initial work about the clash capital/job, to understand what answer workers are giving, and to understand what revolutionary subjectivities will have to do in the present clash. We need European proletariat's point of view, so we want to go on with this work, and we need proposals by who lives in Europe.