Young People and the enlarged EU: Employment-Mobility-Participation
Promoting Organisation: The Cyprus Workers Confederation-SEK
Cooperating Organisations: General Confederation of Greek Workers, GSSE - General Workers Union, GWU, Malta
Funding: European Union
Budget: 58990 euros (financed by the E.U: 35394 euros)
Length: May 2004-June 2005
Summary of the Project
This Project aims at providing information to the public and especially to young people, on issues related to employment, mobility and participation in decision making, in relation to the regulations governing the European Union.
The Project which is based on the cooperation of the Youth Department of SEK with the Youth Secretariat of the General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE) and the Youth Department of the General Workers΄ Union (GWU), provides the arrangement and promotion of a number of activities in order to succeed in its aims. More specifically, the activities include the forming of working groups by the participating organizations, the recording of the concerns and opinion of the youth in Cyprus regarding the issues in discussion, through a questionnaire, the preparation of a publication and the spread of information of the target group in a series of workplace visits and meetings.
Working groups and open seminar
In the framework of this Project, a three day conference was organized in Cyprus, which was attended by representatives of the participating in the Project Organisations. The conference took place at the headquarters of SEK in Nicosia, on the 1st to the 3rd of November 2004. A 7member delegation from Malta, an 8member delegation from Greece and a large delegation from Cyprus participated in this conference. At the beginning of the conference, a general presentation on the existing situation in the three participating Countries, namely Cyprus, Greece and Malta on the issues in discussion took place, followed by the participants' spread in three working groups, each one of which dealt with one of the three main topics of the Project. The conclusions of the working groups were coded and presented in an open to the public seminar, held on the 3rd of November 2004. The seminar was addressed by the General Secretary of SEK, the Director of the Labour Department of the Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance of Cyprus, on behalf of the Minister and the President of the Youth Organisation of Cyprus. In addition to the presentation of the working groups΄ conclusions and the presentations of the representatives of the delegations from Greece and Malta, there was a also a very interesting intervention by the President of the ETUC-Youth. Finally, a representative of the Cyprus Human Development Authority made a very interesting presentation on ΄΄vocational qualifications systems in Cyprus΄΄. A fruitful discussion followed and the whole event ended by a reception for all the participants.
Spread of conclusions through various activities in Cyprus
In the framework of an attempt to inform young workers in relation to the main topics discussed and conclusions reached by the Project, a number of visits at workplaces and various information meetings were held all over Cyprus.
In these meetings and events, trade union officials of SEK presented and promoted the conclusions of the workshop in relation to employment, mobility and participation of young people in decision making, exchanging ideas and concerns with the participants on the Cyprus reality in relation to the E.U developments.
Spread of conclusions in Malta
In an attempt to reach a better coordination of actions and a unanimous approach in relation to spreading the conclusions of the Project as well as the wider discussion and exchange of ideas together with the working youth, two members of SEK-Youth visited Malta and participated in an information conference related to the issues in discussion.
Publication of an information booklet
An information booklet was also published, aiming at the wider information of young people in Cyprus on issues related to employment, mobility and participation, as well as on issues regarding more general E.U developments. This booklet was distributed amongst SEK-Youth members as well as on a wider level through the Cyprus Youth Organisation and other organized bodies and youth structures.
It is believed that the whole Project was successful, since the interest and response of young people and of the workers in general was great, indicating and confirming that the approach of the issues in discussion was necessary for the Cypriot society and for the wider European civil society and especially for the young people.
CYPRUS YOUTH IN EUROPE- EQUAL PARTICIPATION IN THE CIVIL SOCIETY
ANDREAS PH. MATSAS
A PUBLICATION OF SEK-Youth
The young generation remains unchanged throughout the years regarding its willingness to contribute towards the elimination of all the existing bad practices and approaches.
I. Trade Unionism
I.i Social Dialogue in Cyprus
II. European Union
II.i General overview
III. Legislation (harmonized)
III.i 2001 Legislation on the protection of youth in employment
IV. E.U White Paper on Youth
V. Main positions of SEK-Youth (Conclusions/ Outcomes of the Project)
V.I Conclusions/ Outcomes of the Project
V.II Additional main positions of SEK-Youth
In an era that everything is moving extremely fast around us, globalization forces the interdependence of national economies and the European Union is in a continuous process of integration and enlargement, or in other words, in a process of both deepening and widening, young people are still in search of their position in the society in all levels and sectors.
I. Trade Unionism
The wider definition and meaning of trade unionism in simple terms is depicted and reflected through workers' organization as well as of any other group's (ie high school students, university students, athletes etc) in struggling for securing and promoting their interests and rights.
I.i Social Dialogue in Cyprus
Until 1960, Cyprus was a colony of Great Britain and the colonial authority was controlling the whole spectrum of the economy. Labour relations were restricted in collective negotiations, an element appeared however, close to the late years of colonial rule, something which constituted the main reason for frequent clashes.
Cyprus became an independent state in 1960 with the establishment of the Cyprus Republic and in 1962, the new state, having the unanimous approval of all social partners, established the "basic agreement in solving labour disputes", which was the preamble of the "Labour Relations Code" which is still in force today. Thus, since the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus, social dialogue was developed, accepted and implemented, in the framework of tripartite cooperation (state, trade unions and employers).
The practice followed by the government, is based on the philosophy of joint, together with the social partners, determination of its policy. Additionally, the government normally adopts the agreements reached between the trade unions and the employers' organisations. Social dialogue is also respected by the Parliament, being advised by the social partners on all important issues of their interest, adopting when possible, their agreements reached between the social partners and the government. The Parliament also ratifies without any amendments, all proposed legislations which derive through social dialogue.
It would be indicative regarding the role of social dialogue and social partners, to mention that the whole harmonisation process in labour relations issues, was examined and co-decided amongst social partners, through established technical committees which were responsible for finalising the proposed legal texts which were eventually approved by the Cyprus Parliament.
The Industrial Relations Code which was signed in 1977, recognises the right to organising, both for the employees, as well as for the employers, stressing out the importance of collective bargaining and joint consultation in the spirit of good faith and trust. It is also confirmed that the main way of determining salaries and wages, as well as terms of employment, is through free collective bargaining, indicating also ways and procedures in solving any disputes. It would not be an exaggeration to state that social dialogue's principle in relation to the tripartite nature of the Industrial Relations Code, has contributed extensively to achieving and maintaining conditions of long lasting industrial peace. It would also be important to state that the Industrial Relations Code has no legal validity or status, since it forms a gentlemen's agreement which however has been traditionally accepted and respected by all parties involved in the implementation of industrial relations in Cyprus.
The system of managing industrial relations in terms of labour and social security, is also highly tripartite and this kind of tripartite cooperation is achieved through a network of advising bodies, committees and boards, both permanent as well as ad-hoc. This network, deals with various labour and social issues, as for example, employment, working conditions, vocational training, health and safety at the workplace, as well as social security and welfare.
Moreover, bipartite relations are very important in Cyprus and collective bargaining (in sectoral and enterprise level) is considered to be the backbone of the industrial relations system, since the majority of employment terms and conditions are determined by collective agreements.
Social dialogue in Cyprus constitutes a longstanding and well established practice between the government, the employers and the trade union organisations, having set the framework and the basis of national social and labour policies. Social dialogue has been accepted by all parties involved, since its very beginning in the early 60's. Cyprus has a long tradition of strong trade union and employers' organisations and over 70% of the labour force is organised in trade unions.
The system of industrial relations and the process of solving disputes as it is determined in the Industrial Relations Code, have contributed in maintaining the existing industrial peace in Cyprus. It is obvious that the existing system has been implemented in a very successful way. This was the result of the respect shown by the social partners towards the Industrial Relations Code on one hand and on the other, due to their responsible attitude in relation to the faithful implementation of collective agreements being the result of free collective bargaining, not forming a legal document, without this meaning that there were no minor exemptions to this successful practice.
Various tripartite advisory bodies are established in the framework of social dialogue, most important of which, are the Labour Advisory Board and the Economic Consultative Committee. A very recent development, was the establishment of the National Employment Committee which has prepared the National Action Plan for Employment. Some other committees function in an advising way to the government's ministers, as for example on issues related to health and safety and education.
The Labour Advisory Board consists of government representatives, representatives from the trade unions and the employers' organisations and it meets regularly following a specific agenda. This Board advises the Minister of Labour and Social Security on issues related to social security, social protection, social welfare, working conditions, vocational training, health and safety etc. The majority of its proposals normally become either a labour policy or legislation.
The Economic Advisory Committee meets on annual basis and it is chaired by the Minister of Finance. This Committee consists of trade union representatives, employers' representatives, as well as of other officials and institutions, as for example, the Minister of Trade and Industry, the Minister of Labour and Social Insurance, the head of the Central Bank and some independent experts. During the meetings, a dissemination of information regarding all aspects of the Cyprus economy is made, different ideas are also exchanged and finally there is consultation on the future design for the establishment of an improved economic environment.
In the framework of the same philosophy, the National Employment Committee undertakes and deals with issues related to the promotion of employment on national level, the improvement of vocational training programs as well as of the workers' access to such programs, the tackling and elimination of unemployment, the safeguard of equality and the elimination of any kind of discrimination and in general terms, it aims at creating a working environment in which there will be as minimum problems as possible.
Finally, a number of ad-hoc committees are established according to the developments and specific needs, in order to be able to discuss and work on the various issues in the framework of tripartite cooperation. It would be equally important to mention that social dialogue constitutes one of the main issues of European social and employment policy, aiming at creating the prospects for directing it towards the civil society. Having this in mind and as a result of this prospect, it is important that Cyprus has already established solid foundations and mechanisms for further promotion and strengthening of tripartite cooperation.
I.ii Social Partners' Organisations
Firstly, we should state once again that Cyprus has a long standing tradition in relation to the strength of trade union and employers' organisations and that trade union density is over 70% of the labour force today.
Trade Unions in Cyprus are mainly organised by industry and not by occupation and they belong to strong federations or confederations, the most significant being:
The Cyprus Workers' Confederation-SEK (affiliated to I.C.F.T.U and E.T.U.C)
From the above mentioned trade union organisations, only SEK is independent from any political parties in relation to the determination of its policy and the expression of its positions, a fact increasing its autonomy in action. It worth mentioning that SEK has stated since its establishment, that it will safeguard its independence and that it will put efforts in reaching cooperation with other trade unions on the island, in order to be able to promote workers' interests.
Its independence, has been recognised both by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), resulting in being the only Greek/Cypriot trade union which is affiliated to these important organisations.
Four trade union groups bargain independently with the government, concerning the public sector:
PASYDY (civil servants)
Additionally, bank employees are organised in their own independent sectoral trade union, namely ETYK, which negotiates collective agreements together with the Banks Association.
It would also be important to note that trade unions in Cyprus have a high level of cooperation amongst them, in relation to labour issues. It worth mentioning that despite their differences on ideological and not only level, SEK and PEO have a satisfactorily close cooperation on labour issues, in relation to the renewal of collective agreements (negotiating and concluding), as well as regarding the undertake of collective actions when this is considered to be necessary. When it comes to general social or economic issues which affect the workers either directly or indirectly, it goes without saying that SEK, PEO and PASYDY discuss the situation amongst them and they decide on whether it is necessary to call for a national trade union meeting (in which all unions do participate), in order to be able to take collective decisions.
Similarly, employers are organised in the following industrial associations:
The Employers' and Industrialists' Federation (affiliated to I.O.E and U.N.I.C.E)
Trade unions have pursued their aim to help the workers in thee main ways:
- By participating in the formulation of government policy through advisory committees and boards
- By influencing public opinion
- By collective bargaining for conclusion and implementation of collective agreements
The main aims of employers' associations in Cyprus are the following:
- To defend and promote the system of private enterprise and free economy
- To promote economic and industrial development
- To safeguard and promote the interests of their members
The policy of the government of the Republic of Cyprus concerning industrial relations, promoted and implemented by the Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance, aims at the promotion of sound industrial relations, as well as the maintenance of industrial peace.
The primary role of the government is to secure an acceptable balance of power between workers and employers and industrial relations policy is pursued through:
- The safeguarding of the freedom of association
- The encouragement of the growth of strong worker and employer organisations and the fostering of tripartite cooperation
- The promotion of free collective bargaining
- The establishment of institutions and procedures for the prevention and settlement of labour disputes
- The provision of technical assistance and advice to organisations and individuals
At a time when everything is fast moving around us, the interdependence of national economies is increasing more and more and the E.U is enlarging and at the same time is deepening, we need to be very careful and alert. SEK being responsible as the biggest trade union in Cyprus, has realise and indicated on time to all parties concerned, that the existing system of industrial relations needs to be improved, in order on the one hand to be able to adjust to developments and on the other hand, to continue its successful function without any problems.
The existing system which was based on mutual respect amongst all social partners, has been successful when movement of goods, labour force and capital was limited and the economy itself was controlled and self-protected.
Currently, since Cyprus is part of the E.U, facing new realities, challenges, obligations and prospects and being at the same time part of a very globalised environment, the labour relations system needs to be renovated. A new or improved system is required in order to be able to adjust itself in the new environment which has liberalisation of the market and free movement of labour, goods and capital, as its main characteristics.
All future changes however, should be the result of qualitative social dialogue, giving the right to all social partners to express their views, concerns and fears, as well as their positions and proposals.
It has been repeatedly proved in the past, that not well planed or thoughtfully discussed approaches, not only they did not contribute towards reaching any improvements, but on the contrary they set in danger, the functioning of existing systems. The required maturity shown by the social partners so far, should be the main element through which any improvements will be co-decided and implemented.
A constant and unchanged aim of the Cyprus Workers' Confederation (SEK), is the continuous improvement of the workers' standard of living. Following a responsible, an uninfluenced and independent policy, away from any political or other obligations and aims, SEK since its establishment in 1944 is struggling for Freedom, Justice, Equality and Social Advancement.
SEK consists of 7 federations which cover all spectrum of the Cyprus labour market and it is represented on a nation wide range by the Free Labour Centers and its unions.
As an affiliated member to the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), SEK has managed to play a leading role in designing a trade union policy and social goals, having at the same time prepared the workers for a smooth entrance into the European Union, an achievement since the 1st of May 2004.
SEK feels proud for the achievement of Cyprus to become a member of the family of 450 million citizens, since it has been one of the pioneer organisations which supported very strongly the accession of Cyprus to the European Union, being positive that this development would contributed in a decisive way towards the social, economic and political support of Cyprus.
SEK is justified for its positions expressed, believing quite strongly that the responsible and wise road that Cyprus will follow within the united Europe, will create the necessary conditions required for reaching a just and functional solution to the Cyprus problem.
Despite the fact that the importance of becoming organised in trade unions remains unchanged throughout the years, today and as a result of the important improvement on the workers' standard of living, the spectacular extension of social benefits and the general development of the society itself, it is essential to highlight the meaning and the need of organised in trade unions, of both men and women workers.
By constantly maintaining a strong SEK and a strong trade union movement in our country in general, we will remain able and prepared to secure our possessions against any threat.
- SEK has the knowledge and the experience in negotiating and achieving constant and more justified allocation of national wealth and economic burdens.
- SEK has the appropriate mechanisms in speedily solving the workers' problems and continuously monitoring the implementation of the collective agreement.
- SEK has the appropriate mechanisms, the experience and the required influence in facing the problems and challenges caused by new technology.
- SEK has the appropriate knowledge and expertise in protecting and promoting workers' health and safety at the workplace.
- SEK has well trained human resources in its research, European affairs, legal and continuous training departments, providing it with important statistics, information and expertise, useful and necessary in the new culture of negotiations and in industrial relations in general.
- SEK is an alive and modern organisation, clear-sighted and willing to study and be prepared to face the continuous challenges of the 21st century and the accession of Cyprus to the European Union.
- SEK, as a result of its participation in various international and European bodies, its influence and power, contributes in the constant improvement of the financial and social position of the employees.
- SEK, has established and offers a number of services to its members, as a result of the power and means received from the workers themselves, through which their standard of living and quality of life are improved.
In order to be able to provide its member and the workers in general with as much services as possible, SEK has established the following Departments:
TRADE UNION SCHOOL
The Trade Union School was established in 1979 offering training and education on a wide range of topics, for its officials, organising secretaries, members of the local committees, members of the health and safety committees and its members in general, on all levels of trade union activity.
DEPARTMENT OF STATISTICS AND ECONOMIC RESEARCH
It gathers and studies statistics and any important peace of information related to the economy, in order to provide SEK with the appropriate guided information, undertaking at the same time various economic studies and researches.
In order to provide our members and the wider society with the appropriate and constant information, a weekly newspaper is published, namely the "Labour Voice", being the voice tool of SEK, in which its official positions, policies and activities can be found, together with additional information on European and international issues.
SEK is in a position to provide its members with legal advices and services, as well as to secure their full representation at the Labour Disputes Court.
The Women's Department is established in order to tackle the problems faced by women employees. It provides extended activities which are not only concentrated on professional issues, but also in social activities as well as in training and education.
The Youth Department is the appropriate body for creating the opportunities in order for SEK to be well prepared for the future needs and developments. It also promotes and provides solutions to the problems faced by young workers, both professional as well as social, creating at the same time, the necessary conditions for future advancements.
The Pensioners' Department promotes solutions to the problems faced by the veterans of labour, it provides support and assistance in relation to pensions and it makes arrangements and organises activities for the well being of pensioners, such as excursions, boat trips etc.
HEALTH AND SAFETY DEPARTMENT
This Department deals with issues related to health and safety of workers at the workplace. It produces information documents regarding the legal framework and it monitors the appropriate implementation of the legislation at enterprise level.
INTERNATIONAL AND EUROPEAN AFFAIRS DEPARTMENT
European developments on social and employment policy are followed and studied, in order for SEK to be able to function and design its policy in relation to the current situation in Europe and internationally.
SOCIAL AND LABOUR STUDIES FOUNDATION (IKEM)
This Foundation promotes research, study and expertise support on various issues of labour and social nature, as well as organising meetings and conferences on a wide range of issues related to the policy of SEK.
It monitors, studies, undertakes research and gives voice to the working people in relation to their capacity as consumers.
This is the athletic service of SEK, aiming at securing the right to employees in exercising and in dealing with athletics, both in national as well as in international activities.
Moreover, as it has already mentioned, SEK is one of the main social partners in Cyprus. It is also the only Greek Cypriot trade union which is affiliated to the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), representing the interests of the Cypriot workers on European level. Since the 1st of May when Cyprus has become a full member to the European Union, SEK, as a member of the ETUC, participates (represented by its officials) in a number of European institutions.
(more information will be given in the following pages)
(more information will be given in the following pages)
The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, is a tripartite body of the E.U established in order to provide timely guidance and advices to those responsible for social policy, as well as to analyse and evaluate living and working conditions and to provide information in relation to developments and trends especially those leading to consequent changes and to contribute to the improvement of the quality of life.
This is the European organisation guiding those designing, delivering and dealing with policies in the European Commission, the member states and the social partners' organisations in Europe, in order to be able to take the most appropriate decisions in relation to vocational training.
The European Organisation for Health and Safety at the Workplace, aims at making workplaces in Europe more safe, healthier and more productive. This European Organisation acts decisively in the framework of development, collection, analysis and spread of information which improves the situation related to vocational health and safety in Europe.
I.iv Social inclusion- Social partners' and SEK's role
It would be useful to mention that in the framework of tripartite cooperation, social partners make joint efforts in order to promote social inclusion, having given the necessary attention and importance to the civil society.
SEK on its behalf, gives special emphasis and priority on issues related to the elimination of discriminations and to the establishment of conditions of social inclusion.
More specifically, SEK being a member of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), is very active in terms of participating in the various activities undertaken on European level, towards that direction. Additionally, SEK has contributed in the formulation of ETUC policies and action programs related to social inclusion.
Towards this direction and in order to be able to promote its aims in a better way, SEK has established departments of women, youth and pensioners, as well as various other structures through which it approaches issues of social inclusion.
More specifically, the Women's Department of SEK, participates in the National Mechanism for Equality, organizing various activities, researches, studies and seminars, aiming at promoting social inclusion of women.
The seminars organized in cooperation with the Trade Union School of SEK, cover a wide range of issues, as for example legislation on equality, the Cypriot woman worker in the new European work environment, trade union training etc. Recently, a research on maternity at the workplace in examining whether there is any kind of discrimination against pregnant women at the workplace, has been undertaken. Additionally, an information booklet will be published soon, in which the harmonized legislation against discrimination and the inequalities against women, will be analyzed in a very simplistic way.
The Youth Department of SEK, actively participates in all ETUC-Youth activities, being also represented at Economic and Employment Committee and the Committee on Migration and Inclusion of the ETUC. Representatives of the Department have recently participated at an ETUC program concerning social inclusion of young workers, women and migrants. Moreover, the Department has organized a project in cooperation with the Social and Labour Studies Foundation of SEK (IKEM), financed by the European Commission, aiming at promoting employment, participation and mobility issues for young people in the enlarged European Union, in order to be able to achieve their social inclusion in an easier way (the present booklet is published in the framework of this project). Additionally, a conference against drugs has been organized in cooperation with the Women's Department of SEK and in coordination with the Anti-drugs Council and the Youth Organisation. Finally, the Department organizes a number of seminars, some of them being related to issues of social inclusion of young workers and promotion of the E.U White Paper for youth.
The Pensioners' Department organizes various activities from time to time, through which their social inclusion in the wider society is promoted. Additionally, the Department aims through its policies to improve pensions and social benefits for the pensioners, in such a degree that their ability to financially participate in the society will be highly increased.
In an attempt of SEK to increase its contribution and intervention in relation to the process of social inclusion of various groups in the society, a Department dealing with issues related to the workers from Pontus has been established and colleagues from Pontus were employed in order to deal with their problems and issues. Similarly, an office dealing with the problems of E.U national workers in Cyprus has also been established. This office aims at facing the problems occurred to the employers' attempt to exploit E.U nationals working in Cyprus. Some kind of cooperation with trade unions from other E.U countries has begun, in order to be able to tackle the problem in a collective way, supporting the E.U nationals in Cyprus on the one hand and securing at the same time, the rights of the local labour force.
Moreover, SEK is monitoring the issues and the problems faced by foreign workers, very closely and a lot of attempts are made in order to control the problem and to promote the respect and implementation of collective agreements for all.
Additionally, SEK gives special priority in issues related to Turkish/ Cypriot workers, therefore, it is in close cooperation with TURKSEN. Cooperation amongst Greek/Cypriot and Turkish/Cypriot trade unions becomes even more evident through the All Cyprus Trade Union Forum in which all trade unions in Cyprus do participate (both Greek/Cypriot and Turkish/Cypriot).
SEK, in the framework of its participation in the ETUC, is represented at the Economic and Employment Committee, which amongst other tasks, it monitors the European employment strategy in relation to the social partners' participation. It is also represented at the Coordination Committee of Collective Bargaining and Participation of Employees, at the Working Group for Life Long Learning, at the Social Protection Group and at the Migration and Inclusion Group which deals with issues of equal treatment and social inclusion of all employees regardless their origin, religion, sex, age and colour.
SEK has set the promotion of employment, life long learning, vocational training and retraining, housing, health policy and social protection, as well as all issues related to the civil society in general, promoting and supporting the inclusion of workers in the wider society in a more practical way, amongst its constant and priority policies.
Following this philosophy in its policy, SEK has recently participated in the ETUC campaign regarding people with disabilities and the promotion of their rights, as well as in a campaign for the establishment of a more social Europe, having a more human outlook. Finally, it also approaches various issues related to social policy and inclusion, through specialized seminars academically supported by experts from abroad, in order to be able to achieve in a more successful way, its role in expressing, developing and promoting social policy.
The European Trade Union Confederation-ETUC was established in 1973, in an attempt to unite forces and support trade union demands of European workers. It comprises 76 member organizations from a total of 34 countries in Western, Central and Eastern Europe, as well as 11 European industry federations, making a total of 60 million members.
The ETUC is a united, yet pluralist organization, which determines its policies independently from any external interventions, through its structures and especially through the deliberations of its Congress and its Executive Committee.
As a result of both the continuous process for European integration and the role played by the E.U on issues related to employees, the need for a greater trade union cooperation on European level is essential, in order to be able to reach a common voice and collective action. This development and necessity, have given an upgraded role to the ETUC within the European Union, since it constitutes the only trade union organization which can participate in the social dialogue on European level, having its own role to play in the determination of European policy and legislation.
Therefore, in this new environment and as a result of its participation on various levels, the ETUC seeks to increase its influence in the various European Union decision making bodies, as well as to achieve further advancement of the European social dialogue. It also worth mentioning that, following the recognition by the E.U of the right of the social partners to negotiate framework agreements at European level, the ETUC has signed three such agreements, which have been ratified by the Council of Ministers of the E.U and are now part of the European legislation. More specifically, these three agreements/ legislations, concern parental leave, part-time employment and fixed-term contracts.
Moreover, the ETUC activates its member organizations, both on national as well as on European level, in order to be able to put pressure and to influence developments in the interests and the rights of the workers and the society in general.
The ETUC's work is supported by its various departments dealing with issues related to research, training and education, health and safety, women and youth, in a wide range of activities including amongst other, economic and social policy as well as employment policy, industrial relations and social dialogue, equality and the elimination of any kind of discrimination at work and in society in general, as well as information and consultation, social inclusion and the future of Europe.
Finally, it would be important to note that the ETUC gives special importance in informing its members and in creating a constructive dialogue and exchange of ideas and concerns, through a lot of seminars on a wide range of topics, in which representatives from their member organizations can participate.
In concluding, the importance of collective trade union action on European level should be highlighted, since rapid developments affect all the European citizens. Thus, the role of the ETUC remains central and necessary, in order to feel as employees that our voice unites, through its structures, together with the voice of the rest of Europe, supporting and contributing in this way, to the establishment of a European Union, more social and friendly to the citizen.
Referring someone to young people of any age, it is as if referring to the future itself- it is basically as if having a direct eye contact with the future. Indeed, it is this relation of honesty that someone can establish with the young generation that can open ways for new creations and conquers, exactly as it is imposed by modern society, in its challenges, its problems but also its prospects developed.
The youth do not constitute an abstract and a vague concept. On the contrary I would say that, young people are those who have managed to a great extend and on global level, to prearrange the evolutionary process of human and nations' history.
It would also be important to mention the attempt made by SEK-Youth to approach and activate the trade union members. An attempt which involves our members especially those representing SEK at the workplaces on a daily basis.
SEK-Youth, constantly supports the attempts made on all levels of organization and activity, in order to be able to achieve our aims and visions, facing successfully all challenges ahead and contributing as working youth in successfully reaching the labour, social and national visions of SEK.
As it is already known, SEK-Youth has set as one of its main objectives, to promote and solve the problems faced by young workers. Through its various activities and events, both in Cyprus (the Department is represented and activated in all districts through local Youth Departments) as well as abroad (the Department participates actively in the various bodies and activities of ETUC-Youth), there is an attempt to develop cooperation and solidarity amongst young people, with a view to their smooth entrance and re-entrance in the labour market and the wider society in general.
In this framework, we need to work even more, in order to be able to develop the appropriate conditions and circumstances for the promotion and improvement of vocational guidance, the strengthening of accessibility in the labour market and the further development of vocational training in supporting the entering and re-entering of young people into the labour market.
Additionally, we need to exercise more pressure to the appropriate bodies, regarding the uncontrolled employment of legal and illegal foreign workers (non Europeans), as well as the employment of cheap labour presented in a fake way as students, since the long standing existence of such unsolved problems creates negative developments for young people in relation to their prospects for employment.
One of the main problems faced by employees and especially young employees in Europe today, is the various forms of precarious employment. This kind of employment, is characterised by instability and lack of trade union and labour rights. This category of employees form the labour force in the "Kleenex" approach, since they are thrown away once they are not needed anymore.
In front of this kind of approach and having to face this challenge, it is essential that we react in a catalytic way, in order to achieve the safeguard of the employees' dignity and respect at their workplace. The trade union movement should become part of the solution and not of the problem, strengthening in this way both our role as well as our influence in the society.
We also need to intensify our efforts in achieving a positive predisposition and approach of young workers towards SEK and more specifically SEK-Youth, in order to be able to increase our Department and SEK numerically and more importantly, to be able to direct our messages in a constructive way, in the society at all levels.
Young people today are struggling for their right to participation in decision making bodies, a demand which receives a more pan-European dimension through the White Paper of the E.U on youth. We also demand the right to information on the issues of concern and interest for young people, confining at the same time, the lack of structured and enough information on the issues related to the accession of Cyprus to the European Union, something which is considered to be vital for the smooth transition into the new environment and era.
At a time when all principles and institutions are violated in underestimation and human dignity receives a secondary importance, we need to stand up and give our own struggle for national, social and labour development.
According to Kleovoulos, "the youth has a record in everything". It is in our hands to prove it once again, in order to manage to face the various circumstances and see the future in a more positive way, which eventually we will be asked to create. Freedom, Equality, Justice, are the timeless symbols and aims of SEK for which we need to struggle as young generation.
SEK-Youth supports young workers' rights, creating new possibilities for their greater involvement in the rapid developments observed both in our country as well as in the European Union. Set targets which need as much involvement as possible and the contribution of as many young people as possible, in order to be achieved completely, in a result being produced through collective work and joint vision.
It is repeatedly confirmed that the developments and the problems created in the labour market, as well as the distance kept by young people both in relation to trade unionism as well as regarding all organised bodies and structures, send the message that trade union youth should have a more specific and substantial presence, in a framework of an advanced role and increased importance, all these being an essential necessity.
In the present booklet, it would perhaps be important to touch upon the issue of the relation which needs to develop between young workers and trade union youth structures, as well as the ways of communicating, approaching and motivating their participation, targeting at the establishment of a genuine, two ways and constructive relation.
If we analyse the statistics available in the European Union, as well as the estimations we have in hand through our practical experience regarding the existing situation in Cyprus, we will observe that an important number of those entering the labour market and of young workers in general, remain either unorganised or distant from participating in trade union activities. Additionally, a quite important percentage appears to be either in complete ignorance or having an unclear idea on the reasons for which he/she has decided to become a trade union member.
It is very indicative that according to the research undertaken by SEK-Youth, that only 50% of young employees participate in trade unions, a percentage much lesser than trade union density in Cyprus, whereas 68% of young workers have never received any vocational training.
Despite the fact that trade unions both in Europe as well as in Cyprus are trying hard in increasing their influence on changes related to global economy, in order to set the right foundations for more social intervention in the future, unfortunately there is a decrease in the percentage of trade union density regarding young people, as well as in the actual numbers of young people undertaking trade union initiatives, as shop-stewards and as trade union representatives at the workplace in general.
Are all these observed as a result of the increase in the education levels of young people and perhaps their need to distinguish themselves from the traditional way of approach? Is it on the other hand possible that the form of industrial relations in many cases and the differentiations observed in the labour market, constitute negative elements in relation to young workers' intention and approach towards trade unions?
Despite any hypothetical approaches and the consideration of the situation in order to lead us to the design of a strategic policy reaction through a thoughtful discussion, the above mentioned situation indicates the need for a more structured and more intensive approach towards young workers, in order to be informed correctly on the actual role of the trade union movement. In this way, they will gradually manage to create a consciously positive understanding concerning trade unionism and its actual role, something which will lead them in achieving willingness for trade union participation.
In an era where expertise and justification are needed as compensation to ignorance and biased consideration, we need to approach young people by communicating in their own language and giving them the required motives and challenges to lead them closer to trade unions.
Following this spirit, the trade union movement, taking into consideration and using the experiences, the concerns and the suggestions of young people in Cyprus and elsewhere, should direct its actions and priorities towards the young generation, in such a way that a new prospect will be established, with a view to the future.
Consequently, the following suggestions can be taken into consideration accordingly, in order to set a specific action plan:
- We need to give more emphasis in training and information of young people, in order to abandon the individual approach, adopting that of collectiveness. Moreover, we should invest on the improvement of the professional sentiment of young people, in order to view their employment through the lens of permanency provided however, that the required working conditions are present.
- It is important that the image of trade union movement becomes more friendly regarding young workers, adopting a new face and expressed vocabulary, in order for them to more easily and directly identify themselves with the unions.
- Young employees, especially those employed in conditions of insecurity need to feel a more demanding and contesting approach and presence by the trade unions, both at the workplace and more generally.
- More prospects should be developed related to an advanced participation of young people in trade union procedures, adopting also a new agenda covering to a great extend the needs and priorities of young people, providing them at the same time with more motives for trade union membership and activation.
- The timely and appropriate use of the opportunities provided by the Cyprus accession to the European Union, in relation to the participation opportunities of young people in European projects and activities, will give an extra motivation for more participation of young people in trade union affairs.
In concluding, it would be interesting to repeat once again that formulas do not exist. What is always available ahead of us, is the prospect provided we will be able to take advantage of the opportunities appearing, by approaching the existing challenges in a positive and mature way.
In a period when Cyprus is in a transitional process and the E.U itself is setting the foundations for constructing its own future, the trade union movement in the pioneer lead of SEK and SEK-Youth, can destroy the myths created by those who want to serve and promote different interests, developing trade union dynamics even further, approaching and motivating at the same time the young human resources. In this way, the right and necessary messages will be sent in relation to renovation, prospect for the future and a constant direction towards the future.
ETUC-Youth constitutes the representative of young workers on European level. Its main task, likewise every youth organization, is to influence the work of the ETUC, in such a way that young peoples' positions and their role are taken into account and promoted through the decisions and policies of the ETUC.
ETUC-Youth organizes quite frequently various activities, in order to be able to involve its members on the one hand and on the other, to develop opportunities and prospects for working on a number of issues aiming at the conclusion and design of specific youth policy on European level.
It would also be important to note that SEK-Youth has a very active participation in the decision making bodies of ETUC-Youth, both at the Youth Committee and the Youth Bureau, as well as through its activities (seminars, campaigns etc).
Likewise ETUC, its Youth structure functions in a decisive and catalytic way in developing a common voice of expressing young workers' positions and demands, strengthening at the same time the level of solidarity and effectiveness of trade union organizations.
II. European Union
An important event determining future developments in Cyprus is our accession to the enlarged family of the European Union. The accession itself, sets many obligations, as it has already been mentioned, as well as rights regarding the state, the various bodies and institutions, the organized society, the social partners and definitely the citizens themselves, in an attempt to achieve more involvement of the civil society in information, participation and decision making procedures.
In order to be able to understand and appreciate this development in a more appropriate way, as well as to discuss the possibilities for improving things and to demand more substantial and better implementation of our obligations and rights, it is important to receive as much information as possible and to get the opportunity to learn about the E.U in regard of what it constitutes, what it promotes and how it functions.
II.i General overview
The E.U constitutes a group of states which function on democratic foundations, having set their main priorities in respecting, supporting and promoting human rights, stability, peace and sustainable development. Despite the fact that the European enlargement (widening) and deepening with a view to future integration, create conditions and obligations of interdependence between member states, it is important however, to note that language, cultural and any other particularities of each individual state are respected and preserved, no matter its size or its accession date to the E.U.
Europe forms a continent presenting many different traditions and languages, maintaining at the same time common principles amongst its peoples. In this framework, the E.U promotes this kind of particularities on the basis of equal respect towards all its members. It would also be important to state that an indication of this uniformity in participation is the fact that, Cyprus is involved in the E.U having equal rights and obligations with the rest of the 24 member states.
The E.U begun to indicate its historical process after the end of the second world war, following the need and search of the European peoples for safeguarding peace through a wider range of cooperation between the states of Europe. Therefore, in 1950 some more specific steps and proposals begun to be made and put forward regarding the appearing cooperation. This is the time when Robert Shuman and Jean Monnet presented their ambitious proposal for an integrated Europe, starting off through the mine and steel industries which at the time they were considered to play the most important role within European economies and the military industry, amongst other issues.
Any attempts for reaching a political and defense unification at the time did not succeed, since the circumstances were not yet matured for such an issue to arise. Therefore, it was decided to redirect their cooperation on the economic sphere, introducing the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1957, a Treaty which was put into force in 1958. Since then, a continuous process of enlarging and deepening of the Community itself and its structures was followed. The signing of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 and its implementation in 1993, can perhaps be seen as the most important step towards integration, since it established the European Union and introduced new forms of cooperation and development.
Through this Treaty, a new structure was created which is based on three pillars of political and economic cooperation and development, in relation to the community field, the common foreign and security policy and the police and judicial cooperation on penal cases.
This process supported the achievement of economic integration introducing the single currency (Euro) in 2002, at least in 12 out of the 15 member states at the time, a development expected to be applied by the new member states soon. Another important development which is still under the ratification process by the member states, is the proposed European Constitution. Despite the fact that it cannot be considered as the ideal text, it should be approached as a positive development regarding a possible future political unification of the Union and as another step providing the E.U with the opportunity to continue its positive development and to set the standards for more possible improvements in the future.
The tasks put forward by the E.U are mainly focused on the improvement of the citizens' standard of living by introducing a single European market and the introduction of the Euro, as well as through the attempts in tackling organized crime.
Although the European integration at its initial steps was concentrating on issues related to trade and the economy, the positive achievements in development have contributed in dealing and promoting a wider range of issues which are related to the daily life of European citizens. Only to mention agriculture, economic and regional development, employment, social policy and the promotion of equality, environmental protection, energy, telecommunications and transports.
The Athens Resolution in 2003 on the signing of the accession Treaty for the new member states in which it is mentioned that the Union represents the common attempt of its member states to share their future as a community of principles, is an important indication of the future aims of the E.U. This statement in relation to the wider development of the Union, refers to the initial vision of Jean Monnet regarding the establishment of a union between the people.
Of course there is a lot to be done before the E.U can prove its social character and approach focused on human beings. We should not underestimate however, the fact that the Union is still in a developing process in which a lot of compromises need to be done by all partners and all sides, in order to be able to successfully complete the European construction.
II.ii Member states
The E.U has developed and enlarged following a continuous process, promoted in different periods according to the existing situation at each stage, as well as in relation to the various political circumstances and in some cases considering the need for promoting different interests, but at the same time retaining its political, economic and social balances, both within Europe itself as well as on a wider level.
The first group of members of the then E.E.C was established in 1958 including 6 countries which are considered to be the founding members of the Union. Most specifically, we refer to France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Holland and Luxemburg.
The first enlargement of its member states took place in 1973, including Denmark, the United Kingdom and Ireland, followed by the accession of Greece in 1981. The next enlargement in 1986 included Spain and Portugal, followed by the accession of Sweden, Finland and Austria in 1995.
The biggest and more recent enlargement in the E.U history, took place on the 1st of May 2004 with the accession of Cyprus, Malta, Estonia, Slovenia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland.
The next steps of enlargement will include Bulgaria and Romania and it is expected at a later stage to examine the cases of Croatia and under some conditions, the one of Turkey. It is very likely that in the long run, other European states might be interested in entering the E.U.
It would also be important to mention that in order for a state to be able to join the E.U, it should be democratic with full respect in human rights and minority rights, should have a viable and competitive market economy in the E.U standards and to be able to adopt the European Acquis in its national legal framework.
II.iii E.U Institutions
The E.U is a supranational organisation consisting of various institutions and its decisions are taken through a number of legally regulated procedures which form the decision making process. In order to produce community directives and regulations, the cooperation between the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union, is normally needed.
The rules and procedures of E.U decision making are enact by the Treaties and there are three main procedures in enacting new legislation, that of consultation, of cooperation and of co decision.
The European Parliament constitutes the democratic expression of the European citizens' political will, since it is elected directly by the people in simultaneous elections in all member states. Its main activities are related to legislative, budgetary and supervisory powers. The Parliament has 732 MEPs in aggregate and Cyprus has elected 6 member representatives.
The Council of the European Union is the body that the member states are represented and in which the head of states of governments participate together with their Ministers of Foreign Affairs and the President of the European Commission. This body (Summit) determines and defines the general political guidelines of the European Union.
The Council of Ministers is composed by the appropriate Ministers of each member state, according to the subject up for discussion. The Presidency of the Council of Ministers rotates between the member states every six months, in an equal way. The Council is responsible for a number of important topics, sharing budgetary issues with the European Parliament and it also tackles issues and takes decisions on policies related to foreign affairs.
The European Commission is the guardian mechanism of the Treaties and the interests of the Union, initiating legislation, implementing the E.U budget and managing European programs and projects.
In other words, the above mentioned institutions constitute the main bodies producing E.U policies and legislation (directives, regulations and decisions).
Additionally, the Court of Justice of the European Communities ensures that Community law is uniformly interpreted and effectively applied and the Court of Auditors checks and secures that all the Union's revenues have been received and all its expenditure incurred in a lawful and regular manner.
Moreover, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) represents the interests of organised civil society and social partners, issuing opinions on issues related to economic and social policy. Similarly, the Committee of the Regions represents local and regional authorities, the European Central Bank is responsible for European monetary policy, the European Investment Bank provides loans to support projects of common interest and finally, the European Ombudsman supports and protects the citizens and the various organisations in the Union in cases of unjust administration.
II.iv The European dimension of youth
SEK-Youth in the framework of its European activation, has participated recently at the Trade Union Forum which was held in Paris on the issue of "Europe open to the world", representing ETUC-Youth. The Forum was organized by the ETUC in cooperation with the French trade unions.
The main aims of the Forum, in which the ETUC and the ICFTU were represented by their leaderships together with representatives from the national unions, were to discuss the issues related to and affect the workers and the trade union movement in general, in a direct way, in view of the changes occurring on European level.
SEK-Youth, as a result of its active participation in Europe and having taken part in the discussion related to the ways needed for tackling the existing and forecasted problems, sends the message that Europe does not form an isolated fort, but instead it is open to the world having at the same time a global dimension and role to play.
It is also stated that the ETUC and their member organizations, have opinions to express and suggestions to propose in an attempt to eliminate the problems faced by Europe today, being an important partner and actor in the future development of the European Union.
In this framework, the basic and immediate priorities for action are the following:
- Development of the social approach of the enlarged and united Europe
- Strengthen of social justice
- Approach and face globalization in a way that it will be able to work positively for the people
Additionally, it would be important to state that the whole discussion undertaken by trade unions in relation to the necessary decisions regarding the future development of the European Union, involves young people in a very active way, sending the message that the future should be designed together with those who will experience it in a more direct way.
One of the main problems faced today, is that of precarious employment, which normally is the case when it comes to young workers in Europe. This kind of employment it often creates conditions of insecurity, exploitation and stress, since in the vast majority of these cases, no security or protection is offered to the employees.
Precarious employment is mostly occurred in the various forms of part time employment, in fast foods, in seasonal employment, as well as in atypical forms of employment in general.
In these cases, the lack of basic trade union rights is observed together with violation of any kind of personal and professional dignity and respect.
As a result of these developments, the trade union movement should struggle more in order to manage to safeguard a dignified level of minimum wages and fringe benefits. In addition, those employed in such conditions, should be informed on the role, the activities and demands of trade unions in order to feel and believe that they have the right to protect themselves and their rights.
In this environment, the substantial presence of trade union youth and the increasing of its role are considered to be more important than ever. The relation needed to promoted between young people and trade union youth structures in relation to communication ways, approach and motivation of participation, should be issues of high concern to all of us.
In the meantime however, it is essential that we state the need for as much involvement of young people as possible, both in concluding as well as in implementing and monitoring the European Employment Strategy and the National Employment Strategy, in such a way that young people will be able to express their concerns and their problems and proposals will be seriously taken into consideration.
Finally, we need to strengthen both the quantitative as well as the qualitative appearance of trade unions, to promote vocational training aiming at improving workers' abilities in employment, to design specific and clear youth policies and a coordinated action for tackling precarious employment, corruption and black market, as well as to introduce a legal regulation of collective agreements securing their full implementation and safeguarding employees rights and benefits.
II.v Youth Programs
The E.U promotes youth participation, their mobility, their education and life long learning and training, through its various policies and a number of specialized programs.
The Youth Program of the E.U for example, promotes European cooperation amongst young people. Through this program, the participants have the opportunity to take part in youth exchanges that offer the opportunity to meet and explore common themes, exchanging different views and experiences.
The following web pages are interesting in receiving useful information in relation to various European programs:
This Program promotes cooperation in all areas of education and encourages research and innovation. This Program comprises eight separate actions:
1. Comenius (school education)
II.vi European Constitution
In one of my postgraduate essays in 1996, I had mentioned that the collapse of the European Defense Community (EDC) and that of the European Political Community (EPC) in 1954 did not put an end in the prospect for political unification of Europe, but it was just postponed instead, when there would be more appropriate and mature conditions for such attempt.
Through this kind of approach, the attempt for political unification was never abandoned, being redirected towards economic unification. Moreover, the weakness of the E.U to promote an immediate and unified way in dealing with various crisis so far, either within Europe as a continent (Yugoslavia, Albania, Imia-Greece) or outside (the Gulf, the Falklands, Iraq), indicates that a substantial and effective Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) will only be able to exist when and if the necessary conditions are created for a political unification of the E.U.
Today, the discussion and willingness shown in relation to the constitutional regulation of the E.U, shows the way forward, although nothing should be considered as certain and static regarding the progressive process of the European Union.
The proposed constitution being the preamble of the Constitutional Treaty, sets the base for further discussion on the establishment of a "common European country". One common country which will not undermine the importance of the nation state, the "magna Greece", as it is quite symbolically stated by the former President of the Greek Republic, Costas Stephanopoulos, in the same way as it will not undermine the importance of the Cyprus Republic or any other state's member of the E.U.
In other words, this proposed plan constitutes the basis for the future political unification of the E.U, a development which should be considered to be inevitable following the completion of economic integration. In a different case, the E.U will face huge problems without being positive that it will manage to overcome them in a successful way, following the example of Jason and the Argonauts.
Despite the fact that the proposal does not fully fulfill trade union expectations, since its political context is not very favorable, we should note that great improvements have been observed in relation to basic issues appearing on the trade union agenda. Basic issues of the Constitutional Treaty, as for example the recognition of social partners' role, the principles of social justice, equality and solidarity, as well as the aim for the establishment of full employment conditions and sustainable development, are fully in line with the trade union positions.
On the contrary however, despite the fact that the inclusion of the Charter of fundamental Rights constitutes an important step forward, the inclusion of some terms which are entitled to interpretation, might reduce the practical benefits for employees and the citizens in general. The failure to reach an important progress on issues of economic governance and the extension of extended majority voting in decision making, are only some of elements which might affect the social dimension of the Constitution in a negative way.
Definitely, the proposed Constitution includes many defects and a lot of proposed improvements can be taken into consideration. According to the former General Secretary of the ETUC, colleague Emilio Gabaglio, who represented European trade unions at the Convention for the future of Europe which dealt with the final text of the Treaty, "at least in relation to the social part of the Constitution, there is still a lot of work to be done". However, we need to note that the European Constitution does not replace by any means, the national Constitutions of member states, but it sets the framework in which the E.U can operate.
The European Constitution consists of four parts. The first one contains the provisions which define the Union, its objectives, its powers, its decision-making procedures and its constitution. The second part contains the Charter of Fundamental Rights, the third part focuses on the Union's policies and actions (internal and external), incorporating many of the provisions of the current Treaties and finally, part four contains the final clause, including the procedures for adopting and revising this Constitution.
At this stage however and in the framework of the present publication, we should not stick to the different articles of the proposed Constitution and their implementation. On the contrary, it is needed to be faced and approached as a new challenge and prospect in view of further developments, as well as another step towards the non reversible European vision leading to the political integration and unification. Nonetheless, the proposed Constitution (which has already been adopted by the heads of states and governments of the member states) will need to be ratified by all member states (in some cases by referendum and in some other by national parliamentary procedure), without being completely certain that it will be unanimously ratified. Of course, it is important to realize and understand that despite its negative aspects, the prospects created are very promising and essential for further development of the European Union and a possible rejection might cause doubts in relation to its future progress.
It would be interesting to note that the legislation concerning industrial relations and social policy in the E.U, has improved the Cypriot labour legislation which we have to admit that it was incomplete to a great extend. A constant political demand of SEK, is the legal regulation of the main provisions of collective agreements, which constitute a gentlemen's agreement, in order to safeguard their implementation to a greater extend. Such a development will contribute to the further enrichment of the Cypriot legislation, providing more security and safeguard to employees.
For the purposes of this text book, twelve pieces of legislation which concern young workers, either directly or indirectly have been selected as indicative examples of the legal advancement experienced.
III.i 2001 Legislation on the protection of youth in employment (N.48(I)/2001)
This legislation covers youth employment in any employer and it determines the rights and obligations of both the employee and the employer. In general terms, every employer should take and he/she has the obligation to take all appropriate measures in order to secure health and safety conditions in employment and to safeguard the employees' growth.
III.ii 2000 Legislation on the revised European Social Charter of 1996 (amended) (N.27(III)/2000)
31 Articles are included in this legislation, referring to basic employees' rights. The following Articles are considered to be the most indicative regarding the legislation itself:
- Everyone shall have the opportunity to earn his living in an occupation freely entered upon.
- All workers have the right to just conditions of work.
- All workers have the right to safe and healthy working conditions.
- All workers have the right to fair remuneration sufficient for a decent standard of living for themselves and their families.
- All workers and employers have the right to freedom of association in national or international organizations for the protection of their economic and social interests.
- All workers and employers have the right to bargain collectively
- Employed women, in case of maternity, have the right to a special protection.
- Everyone has the right to appropriate facilities for vocational training.
- All workers and their dependents have the right to social security.
- Children and young persons have the right to appropriate social, legal and economic protection.
- All workers have the right to equal opportunities and equal treatment in matters of employment and occupation without discrimination on the grounds of sex.
- Workers have the right to be informed and to be consulted within the undertaking.
- Workers have the right to take part in the determination and improvement of the working conditions and working environment in the undertaking.
- All workers have the right to dignity at work.
- All persons with family responsibilities and who are engaged or wish to engage in employment have a right to do so without being subject to discrimination and as far as possible without conflict between their employment and family responsibilities.
- Workers' representatives in undertakings have the right to protection against acts prejudicial to them and should be afforded appropriate facilities to carry out their functions.
- All workers have the right to be informed and consulted in collective redundancy procedures.
III.iii 2001 Legislation on the protection of employees' rights in case of the employers' insolvency (N.25(I)/2001)
This legislation covers all employees apart from those employed by the government of the Cyprus Republic and entitled to payment are employees whom employment has been terminated as a result of their employer's insolvency, having worked for at least 26 consecutive weeks prior to date when insolvency was occurred.
III.iv 2002 Legislation on parental leave and leave for force majeure (N.69(I)/2002)
Each parent (father or mother) who has completed a consecutive period of employment of at least 6 months at the same employer, is entitled to unpaid leave of a maximum of 13 weeks each, in order to take care of the child they either gave birth to or adopted.
Additionally, every employee is entitled to unpaid leave of a maximum 7 days per year, following an application submitted to the employer as soon as possible, for force majeure related to urgent family health incidents, making the immediate presence of the employee essential.
III.v 2002 Legislation on part-time employment (forbiddance of discrimination) (N.76(I)/2002)
The aim of this legislation is to eliminate any discrimination against employees in conditions of part-time employment, giving them the right to enjoy equal terms, employment conditions, equal treatment and protection compared to that offered to comparable employees in full time employment. These rights include amongst other, the right to association, collective bargaining, as well as in terms of salary and all other benefits.
III.vi 2000 Legislation on the employees' information received by the employer regarding the terms of the agreement or the employment relation (N.100(I)/2000)
According to the existing legislation, every employer is obliged to inform in writing each one of his/her employees regarding the basic terms of the agreement or the employment relation.
III.vii 2002 Legislation on the organization of the working time (N.63(I)/2002)
Through this legislation, the minimum standards of health and safety regarding the organization of the working time are determined. More specifically and amongst other, it determines the minimum daily rest time, the minimum weekly rest time, the maximum weekly working time, the provided breaks, the annual leave and the special provision regarding those employed at night and in shifts.
III.viii 2002 Legislation on equal treatment between men and women in employment and vocational training (N.205(I)/2002)
The aim of the present legislation, is the implementation of the principal of equal treatment between men and women in relation to their access to vocational guidance, vocational education and training and the terms and conditions these are provided.
III.ix 2002 Legislation on equal payment between men and women for the same work or for work which receives the same value (N.177(I)/2002)
Every employer is obliged to provide equal payment to employed men and women for the same work or for work which receives the same value, independently from the employee's sex and also the payment criteria should be determined in such a way that they will exclude any discrimination based on sex.
III.x 1997 Legislation on the protection of maternity (N.100(I)/97)
According to the existing legislation, an employee presenting a certificate signed by an approved doctor, certifying and determining the week during which the childbirth is expected, is entitled to maternity leave.
The total length of maternity leave is sixteen consecutive weeks, nine of which should be taken obligatorily during the period beginning the second week before the week of the expected childbirth.
III.xi 1996 Legislation on health and safety at the workplace (N.89(I)/96)
This basic legislation on health and safety at the workplace, combined with a number of supportive and amended legislations and regulations, promotes the improvement of the conditions and the ways for safeguarding health and safety at the workplace.
III.xii 1997 Regulations on the safety committees at the workplace (K.D.P.134/97)
According to these regulations, the employers' obligation for the establishment of health and safety committees at his/her enterprise is determined. The election of the health and safety representatives at the enterprise, is organized by the employer himself/herself or his/her representative, amongst the employees and in cooperation with their representatives. Through these regulations, the duties and responsibilities of health and safety representatives are arranged, as well as the employer's obligations in relation to the well functioning of these committees.
IV. E.U White Paper on Youth
It has been repeatedly stated that the European Union has begun to show a more socially friendly face to the citizen, aiming at materializing Jean Monnet's vision for a Europe of the citizens. This new direction followed by the European Union, is depicted in the White Paper for youth which definitely constitutes the future and the prospect for the united Europe towards its way to full integration.
The need for increasing youth participation and their role and contribution in the integration process, has led the European Commission to the conclusion of a White Paper, which is not a Directive or a legal document, but a useful and important tool instead, in order to set the right base for investing in youth and actually in the future itself.
The White Paper gives the guiding lines for materializing the slogan and the message, "for the youth with the youth", into practice. A special parameter of the Book, is the chance that it should be given to young people, in participating in public life, an important element and prerequisite in order to be able to become active and autonomous citizens. Thus, special emphasis and priority should be given in active participation of young people as a mean of eliminating any form of social exclusion and discrimination, securing at the same time, unobstructed access to the labour market and dignity in quality of life. Moreover, young people should have access to education and vocational training in order to be able to improve and strengthen their prospects for a better future in life.
Additionally, we need to take into consideration that young people's opinion and concern should be taken into account before finalizing any decisions, measures or policies which affect them, either directly or indirectly. In this framework, it would be useful to remember that the future of the European Union is based on the youth participation, therefore they should have an active role to play in relation to future developments.
As it has already been mentioned, the White Paper on Youth constitutes a useful tool which needs to be used correctly in order to have a positive impact on young people. In order however to be used in the appropriate way, both by the society as well as by the state, a new framework of cooperation and coordination needs to be established in terms of youth policy on European as well as on national level. Equally, more advancement of the Youth Organisation is needed is accordance with more participation and contribution of young people in other activities and policy making structures not necessarily related to youth issues.
Moreover, youth structures need to be strengthened in all levels, through the establishment of solid structures being able to respond in the needs deriving through their advanced role, as well as to approach in a satisfactory way the challenges and the prospects ahead.
The social partners also have another very important role to play in adopting and implementing the main guidelines and frameworks of the White Paper, the promotion of which, on national level could be included in the procedures of social dialogue itself.
On top of that, it did play a role in promoting a common will for establishing a single action policy through which "a new impetus will be given to European youth", both on European as well as on national level. It is expected that the national youth strategy will be concluded very shortly, being the result of common activities and collective work of all parties involved. It is also believed that this outcome will have an important role to play as a useful tool in the hands of youth organizations in supporting and guiding their attempts for promoting and materializing their aims, goals and ambitions.
V. Main positions of SEK-Youth (Conclusions/ Outcomes of the Project)
V.I Conclusions/ Outcomes of the Project
As a result of the workshops' activity which was undertaken in the framework of the Project, in which representatives from SEK-Youth, GSEE-Youth (Greece) and GWU-Youth (Malta), some useful and interesting results have been extracted following the fruitful discussions, in relation to the three main issues of the Project.
The first issue is related to employment and the need for establishing the appropriate conditions in order to eliminate unemployment and to achieve both a quantitative as well as a qualitative approach towards the labour market. The second issues has to do with young people's participation at the various decision making bodies and procedures, in order to be able to receive the necessary motivation for participating in public life, in the various organized structures as well as in the society itself. Finally, the third issue is related to the right of employees' mobility and the safeguard of their rights deriving from or created through this new element and right.
These conclusions are formed both in the sense of identifying and presenting the various problems, as well as in the sense of providing views and proposals, aiming at managing to have a positive approach towards any negative facts and developments.
- Unemployment constitutes one of the main problems affecting employment, being also one of the most important criteria and elements in relation to the development of employment itself.
- Not enough training/ retraining. A confirmation that plays a very important role regarding employment, since vocational training creates the opportunities for entering and reentering in the labour market, contributing at the same time in promoting the possibilities for more professional success.
- The need for vocational guidance is also central, since in this way young people are prepared on time, in relation to their future professional development.
- The education system should be adjusted to the labour needs, since in this way we will be able to avoid completely uncontrolled professional trends, which might result to the increase in unemployment and underemployment.
- Reentrance of women in the labour market will contribute to the decrease of inactive women labour force and it will cover, through the appropriate vocational training, a number of the existing needs in the national labour market.
- Protection of work through the safeguard of workers' rights and the improvement of conditions and the environment at the workplace.
- Specialized youth policy aiming at securing and promoting the rights, the concerns and the capabilities of young people, through a certain framework of action policy to be promoted by the state and the organized bodies and structures.
- A more active trade union involvement, in order to assist young workers in realizing that the trade union movement as a whole, both in Europe and nationally, can support and promote their needs and visions, through a more practical and specific political approach.
- Absence of young people from active participation, results to the elimination of the possibilities and at the same time of their capabilities to promote their positions and interests.
- The lack of participation motives and at the same time inequality in participation in various decision making bodies, creates a negative approach in relation to young people's participation either in youth structures or in other structures in general.
- Negative discrimination and underestimation of young workers' capabilities constitute important elements which contribute in leading them away from any collective activity of any kind.
- Restricted opportunities of promotion lead to inactivation of young people and in other words in their marginalization regarding active participation.
- Need for establishing a national policy which will give motivation and opportunities to young people, through institutionalized bodies in order to participate actively and substantially.
- Specific campaigns of European structures (ETUC for example) in promoting youth participation and involvement and establishing at the same time a solid network of cooperation and support on issues of common interest.
- More information in relation to opportunities and capabilities of participation, increasing motivation through which the possibilities for participation and democratic involvement will also increase.
- Promotion of participation through trade unions, in the framework of a wider approach by introducing the appropriate and acceptable conditions of participation and consultation and at the same time, promoting examples of good practices through the establishment of such policies through which, the opportunities for participation within the trade unions themselves, will be promoted.
- Mobility should be faced both as a fact and as a right, to be respected and at the same to be promoted and invest on.
- This right needs to be used and not to be seen and approached as something to fear of and eventually to be abused.
- Establishment of a cooperation network will set the necessary base for the right approach towards the right to mobility, developing those conditions needed for the promotion of a joint and collective attitude on European and national level, regarding the new prospects and challenges.
- European harmonization of qualifications' accreditation and the establishment or improvement of Vocational Training Centers, is yet again another important issue to be discussed and taken into consideration.
- The above proposal, will assist and promote the establishment of a common European policy on qualifications, in order to achieve more recognition in relation to various dexterities and improvement in the nature of specific professions leading to improved terms and conditions of employment.
- Information and increase of awareness on mobility's consequences, is another issue to focus on, in order to achieve a relevant understanding by the workers and the society in general.
- Trade Unions' role is once again very important not only in relation to information and monitoring, but much more importantly regarding its influence in creating the related national policy and in establishing a European network of cooperation and promotion of this right, taking into account the real needs of the labour market and the employment possibilities in the framework of the existing legislation and collective agreements.
- The wrong approach and understanding on the issue of mobility might create problems related to xenophobia and racism. Therefore, trade unions should take specific actions aiming at tackling this kind of phenomena.
- It is also important to distinguish unemployment (either high or low) from mobility. It does not necessarily mean for example that, if there are five thousand unemployed people and an equivalent number of mobile workers, their departure will automatically create opportunities of replacing them by local labour force, since there are many other issues and parameters needed to be taken into consideration before reaching solid conclusions.
- Measures on European and national level are also needed, in order to promote a common policy for appropriate implementation of mobility, avoiding the appearance of xenophobic sentiments.
V.I.iv In Concluding
- One of the main conclusions reached through the workshop activities, is the need for more cooperation amongst trade union youth organizations.
- Moreover, it is both useful and necessary to Utilize common characteristics and prospects of the three participating countries and on a wider European level as well, in order to establish a common and collective trade union approach.
- The need for developing a more complete and solid youth policy, related to their issues of concern and interest, is a prerequisite for future youth participation and more active involvement in trade unions.
- This involvement will create more sensitive and friendly emotions towards the trade union movement on youth issues, contributing to the development of such a policy related to the needs of the young generation, both in terms of their social involvement, as well as regarding their concerns and prospects at work.
- Finally, we need to state that continuous cooperation of all youth structures involved is a necessary approach aiming at improving the role and the rights enjoyed by young people in all aspects of their social, political, trade union and any other activity.
V.II Additional main positions of SEK-Youth
In addition to the above positions and suggestions which are mainly related to the Youth approach on labour and industrial relations issues, it would be equally important to promote some more issues of interest and concern, as an indication of SEK-Youth social and wider range intervention.
V.II.i Drugs- A solution to the problem is needed
Drugs- We named them the wound of our era, a lullaby and a catastrophic development, we approached them as a curse, isolating the users as being a social miasma. Despite that approach however, the problem not only was not solved, but on the contrary it did increase to a great extend, not being able to be controlled neither by the society itself nor by the appropriate bodies.
According to the dictionary of Georgopapadakou, drugs "are substances of chemical or vegetable origin (heroin, cocaine, morphine, hash etc) which act in the central nerve system and which, when they are not used for medical purposes, they destroy the user".
We need to realize that the drug problem, beyond its theoretical and academic aspect and approach, forms a social phenomenon which influences mostly young people in a very negative and dangerous way, independently from their economic, social, educational or any other level and background.
It is indeed as a result of this fact that we need to realize and accept the existence of the problem, in order to become through our activity, part of the solution and not to remain, as a result of our neutrality, part of the problem itself.
The lack of a complete policy on the drug issue in relation to the absence of organized spread of information and promotion of training and support to the parents and the society in general regarding prevention, identification and the process of treatment of drug users, increase the existing problem even further, creating uncontrolled consequences.
It is important and substantial as well, to promote an organized and important campaign aiming at increasing sensitivity on the issue among the society, in order to adopt the correct understanding regarding the problem and the urgent need for solving it, not on the basis of isolating and marginalizing drug users, but instead in providing them with the correct and effective support in all levels.
Additionally, a constant and frequent scientifically approached policy regarding the reentrance of former drug users, is needed, in the framework of a wider policy aiming at their social and professional inclusion and reactivation.
Moreover, the campaign against drug dealers needs to be intensified, in order to give the opportunity to legal authorities to sentence them in a very strict way of punishment in order to warn by example.
The 26th of June is set as the global date against drugs. This date should serve as a good opportunity for intensive thinking through which, we will be able to take solid conclusions and specific decisions in order to manage to control the problem as a short term goal, setting its eventual elimination as a longer run goal.
Let us not close our eyes in reality. We all need to give hope to those people searching for ways out in wrong and fake directions and to create the opportunities for constructing a more human and friendly society for the young people. A society in which drugs by definition will not form a way out for anyone, neither in order to solve problems nor in order to create a fake euphoria. In such a way, our young generation will be able to live its life with a prospect and not through illusions.
In the framework of a sincere attempt by SEK-Youth to support former drug users in their struggle for employment and as a result of that, social inclusion and reentrance, we currently participate at the E.U Equal Program in cooperation with the Youth Organisation and other organizations, in order to send the necessary messages to the society, as well as to create specific and applicable opportunities in life.
V.II.ii Young people with disabilities
"Let us go together"- the message for the year of people with disabilities during 2003, which was set as disabled people year.
SEK-Youth, in the framework of its attempt to lift all social exclusions, adds its own message "together for life".
In a Europe which is integrating and enlarging, it is not acceptable by young people to view and experience any practices of exclusion, prejudice and discrimination among the society and the citizens. It is really unacceptable that our fellow citizens, our colleagues, our friends, our own people with disabilities are treated differently compared to the rest of the society.
Young people want to build their future world in a framework that there will be no exclusions and discriminations. We demand equal opportunities and the safeguarding of participation for all young people, promoting the inclusion of people with disabilities in the wider social model.
Undoubtedly, it would be an exaggeration to claim that through the existing policy or through any seminars or conferences, all problems can be solved. This is by far not the case. It is important however, that young people, with or without disabilities, having a common willingness for life and creation, get the chance to share their views and ideas and to design a common way for the future.
Following and promoting the Madrid Declaration of 2002, we need to work collectively on national, regional and European level, in order to achieve the elimination of any discrimination, promoting at the same time the social inclusion of our fellow citizens with disabilities.
It is essential to have in mind however, that nothing should be done for them without their participation.
SEK-Youth in cooperation with ETUC-Youth, called on the ETUC and its affiliated unions, to continuously touch upon these issues of concern to the people with disabilities and to promote their participation on equal terms and in all levels. In this framework, these issues could be promoted in the framework of social dialogue and tripartite cooperation, especially in the countries where there are such structures which promote the cooperation among social partners. Additionally, we need to exert our influence on the European institutions for the promotion of the appropriate European legislation on discrimination in relation to disability.
The main points on which we believe that we should base our efforts on, are the following:
- Dignity, equality of opportunities and full accessibility in employment and in vocational promotions
- Participation of young people with disabilities in decision-making bodies and information/consultation at all levels
- Young people with disabilities to be considered as active volunteers and not as passive recipients
- Access to education, lifelong learning and vocational training, in order to promote equality and equal opportunities
- Mobility and independent living for promoting and securing social inclusion.
People with disabilities should be transformed from passive recipients, to active policy providers. This definitely forms a great challenge to all of us. A challenge which should contribute to our human integration.
"Let us go together" in order to achieve this goal too. We can, not only us, as young people, but all of us together.
V.II.iii A need for vocational guidance
It is already commonly accepted, even in a schematic way, that today's decisions, selections and omissions will affect young people of the future, maybe in a more extended way than those of today.
According to Demofilos, "young people are like plants-they know at their first fruits what they have to expect from them in the future". Wised words, although in most cases however, the future work of young people is based, depends and affected to a great extend, by the decisions and the deeds of older people today, both in terms of age as well as of high office.
A recent research undertaken by the Trade Union Committee of the Youth Organisation and in which SEK-Youth participated as well, on vocational guidance and counseling, showed that the main role in the world of work will be played by the knowledge economy. Through this development, we need to introduce more flexibility in the process of selecting subjects at school, in order to have the right for multiple selection of studies, based on the facts and the needs which appear in the labour market at the certain time.
In these frameworks, the necessary political decisions should be taken in cooperation and coordination with the appropriate bodies. In this way, our education system will create the opportunities and the prospects for the students to develop their self-knowledge and the necessary capabilities and dexterities which will lead them in constructing their decisions on these elements in the future.
Additionally, institutional structures providing vocational training need to be upgraded, as well as the actual vocational programs themselves, in such a way that they will be able to respond more directly and in a more substantial way towards the needs of the labour market at each time.
Moreover, a training system adjusted to and approaching the needs of both the economy as well as the society, should be developed. In similar lines, it is essential to promote research and studies related to the labour market in order to take notice of the changing needs and to plan the future aims in a framework of short run, middle run and long run schedule.
In order for a student however, to be able to take the appropriate decisions, it is essential to be supported by the counseling teachers, who will be more successful in his/her duties if there is an increase in their time spent at schools and at the same time their responsibilities in a number of different schools during the same school year are reduced so they will not have to travel from one school to another so much. It is also equally important that the teaching hours of the subject of vocational guidance increase.
Another important issue to be taken into consideration, is the need for financial and technical support in order to make possible the teachers' and students' access to the means and the places where information is available. An additional measure could be the establishment of district offices regarding counseling and vocational guidance activities, giving special emphasis on the needs of mountainous and rural areas of the district. In this way, it could perhaps be possible to increase the importance of students' working week (training experience) as a more important activity, in which it would be given the opportunity to students to receive more important and specific experiences, as well as a more complete picture regarding the profession of their interest.
This development, could perhaps also promote a better cooperation between the counselors and consequently the school itself and the parents and perhaps more importantly with the students themselves, constructing a two ways relation of communication, as well as mutual respect and trust.
A correct policy in this specific sector, will result to multiple positive results to the system of industrial relations in Cyprus, since the whole concept on labour and employment understanding will be affected, being very likely to have an impact on the improvement of communication between the employer and the employee. Independently from those hypothetical approaches, it should be considered as definite that such a policy, will bring forward positive changes in the society regarding the way of thinking and the wider mentality in approaching such issues, something which seems to be weak at the moment.
The introduction of an independent coordination body for vocational guidance with the involvement of governmental bodies and social partners, as well as non governmental organizations dealing with issues related to human resource development, vocational training and life long learning, as well as with employment services and the conclusion of collective agreements, could be considered as another useful development.
In this framework, participation and the role of both trade unions and employers' organizations would be essential and substantial. This institution which could be functioning through the philosophy of "training, vocational guidance, labour market", should be in touch with other similar institutions in the European Union, in order to receive information and to cooperate in promoting the positive elements and avoiding the negative ones, learning basically through other member states' own experiences.
Finally, we need to focus our attention in promoting vocational guidance and life long learning to young people in Cyprus. In this way, we will manage to create a specialized labour force being able to adjust to different circumstances and demands developed as a result of new technology and advancements in the information sector and telecommunications.
It is therefore through these concerns and the hope that a more well functioned labour market will be created as a result of our approach towards the European Union, that a common ground and framework between education/training and employment should be developed. This will contribute in the adaptation of education and vocational training in relation to the labour market, increasing the quality in work since the labour force will be much better equipped. In return, this will be a preventive measure against unemployment, contributing at the same time in the increase of productivity.
It is evident that in order to be successful in the above mentioned procedures, a constructive cooperation, coordination and approach of the different state services and other bodies and organizations is needed. There are many challenges to be faced but the prospects and capabilities are much more. The necessary political will should be rendered in approaching these issues in seriousness and taking advantage of the various European programs in receiving useful information and experience.
In preparing this text book, a lot of issues, elements and developments affecting young workers, both men and women, were taken into consideration. Although it would have been impossible to fully cover every single aspect, we believe that the basic and most necessary information is available in order to make people aware of the new situation as well as to motivate them in searching for more information regarding changes both in the work environment as well as in the wider social environment as a result of the accession of Cyprus to the European Union.
Additionally, the arguments, the references and the information given in relation to the way industrial relations function in Cyprus and the role played by the trade union movement and especially SEK on national and European level, indicate and reconfirm that the bigger and more substantial workers' participation in trade union organizations representing employees in enterprise, sectoral, district and national level, the more positive results will be achieved in relation to their struggle for promoting and securing their demands and rights.
Moreover, at a time of changes, when new technology and new forms of employment create the need for new approaches, priorities and culture in the labour market, young workers should find the means which will be supportive to them in tackling successfully the problems and approaching challenges in a positive way.
The organizing of young people in wider social, professional, athletic and other organized bodies, supports the establishment of a better understanding in relation to the various social phenomena, temptations and seductions, in order to be functioning in such a way that they will be able to have a positive attitude towards life, not only for themselves but also being a good example in their wider environment. In this way, they will contribute in solving various problems as well as in the improvement of the society itself.
At the same time, globalization and the interdependence of national economies as well as the changes occur on European level resulting to the improvement of the Acquis and its implementation on national level, create more duties to us all, in order to be able to complete our journey in success, experiencing as less negative consequences as possible.
Finally, it would be useful perhaps to state that the maturity of a society is depicted through its ability to use the past accordingly, creating at the same time the future and not just managing the present.
Let us all realize, especially the young people, our share of responsibility, in order to be able to work as catalysts towards social reconstruction and development, promoting our participation and involvement. The success of such an attempt will set the necessary foundations and prerequisites for the construction of a better and more social Europe, as well as a closer to the citizen and more prosperous Cyprus Republic, being an indispensable part of the united Europe