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7/24/2019 : 12:25 am : +0200

It is the work that creates true values...

(04.06.2008) "If the human manpower is reduced to a mere factor of costs within the economic calculations about higher turnover and yield, than is this will damage the enterprise's creation of value and will constrain its future development potential."
This leads to the question how can labour political innovations cause equal and better working conditions for employees and which can create also a benefit for the enterprises through a plus of quality, higher standards, improved processes, and more efficient achievements?
The topic "Labour and Innovation" was the focus of the INNOTrans Workshop that took place on the 18th and 19th May 2008 in Rome. 27 trade union activists from six European countries participated in the workshop, and for the first time, representatives of workshop councils and sector enterprises participated as well.

This 3rd network meeting of European unionists of the woodworker and furniture industry was opened with the introducing theses about the importance of "Labour and Innovation" by Reinhard Hahn, divisional head of the handcraft / company politics SME / engineering of the management board of the IGM Frankfurt. His conclusion: Those who want to improve employment and competitiveness have to increase the development speed of investment and innovation. Like in the majority of the SME sectors, the wood and furniture industry lacks too often systematic and sustained company and product development. Future requirements for technology, qualification of employees and management, the organisation of production and product development are not dealt with in strategic context.

In contrast, "innovations are the requirement for the creation of economical growth and jobs. Only this way will enable the European furniture industry to endure in global contexts. Thereby this is not about innovative products, new materials and modern technology. We understand innovation politics as a renewal of working procedures. Especially in this field of work, the backlog demand is huge. (?) We need a stronger participation of employees in the processes of change in the sector and the enterprises. The structural change in the European woodworker and furniture industry requires social innovations. The demographic change does not exclude the enterprises. Aging staffs are one of the special challenges of the near future. Qualifications can be taken in the companies but this has to be supported by an according qualification policy. And additionally this creates further requirements for the design of the working places, especially for the work and health protection in the companies. It is a task for the trade unions to be active where they can influence the situation directly - on location, in the corporation, within the sector. If we want to achieve equal living standards throughout Europe, we must adjust our demands solidarily to each other and we have to organise these activities transnationally. Therefore we plead for an European offence about the topic "good labour".
Good work is the key for the European work and social model. On this base we will be able to answer to the oncoming difficulties and risks in the European woodworker and furniture sector with operative strategies of safeguarding jobs to agreed salary standards and health conductive working conditions."

Based on this positioning, the partners have analysed the topic of "Good Labour" from the point of view of existing strengths and challenges in the sector enterprises focused on the different countries and deduced from these cognitions, the partners have developed common approaches to the field of innovation of good work. The deciding factor of this was the concentration on those operative questions that are decisive for the creation of equal or improved working standards n Europe and which can be influenced through the active participation of trade unions.

Labour political improvements within the area of "Good Labour" are European advantages of location in the global competition. This includes:

  • "Healthy Work" - meaning a health protecting work environment through the avoidance of accident risks, the decrease of physical or psychic burdens and the reduction of health risks on the work place.
  • "Better Work" - makes limited and planable labour time with sufficient rest and regeneration times necessary.
  • "Qualified Work" - through systematic further education and intermediation of additional qualifications for future requirements and which will benefit the employment and location security on the long term.

The mutual discussion of the cross-country approaches to "Good Labour"
came to the interim solution to concentrate the sector network on the core topics "education, qualification and further training". Although the different national approaches vary widely. In the area of education and qualification the instruments go from contract and company-based agreements up to pay-as-you-go financed education funds in Italy and Denmark. In the next weeks, the project partners will deal with the questions how successful these instruments really are and how they are recognised by the employees. Therefore, already concluded company or sector agreements are made public to all partners and are checked for potential assignability.

The objective of the project's further activities are to announce the company-based (country) examples mutually, to organise ways of transfer within the network and to create a European frame of activities for "Good Labour" as a union-based offensive strategy in the European sector politics.
(Gisbert Brenneke)

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