Commission underlines the role of the social partners in fighting racism

Speaking in March 1997 at a conference on the fight against racism and xenophobia, organised by the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), commissioner Padraig Flynn highlighted the important contribution of the social partners in combating racism in the workplace and in society as a whole.

Over the past decade there has been increasing concern among the institutions of the European Union about the rising tide of racism across the member states. In a recent address to a conference on combating racism organised by the ETUC, social affairs commissioner Padraig Flynn highlighted the importance of the fight against racism in "achieving improved working conditions, creating jobs, improved industrial relations, the use of human resources to the best possible effect, social justice, equal opportunities, wealth and tolerance".

At the conference, held on 21 March - a day declared International Day against Racism by the United Nations- Mr Flynn acknowledged the impact of high unemployment on the spread of racism and xenophobia. He particularly warned against "institutionalised discrimination" which, he argued, was still all too present in the labour market, and manifested itself in discrimination in job interviews, training and everyday work situations.

The commissioner acknowledged that the current European Year Against Racism could not solve all problems and admitted that the European institutions where themselves perpetrators and victims of years of quiet discrimination, and reflected very little of the cultural and racial diversity present in the European Union.

Mr Flynn argued that the real power of the European Year Against Racism lay in its ability to galvanise individuals and organisations into action and providing encouragement and support to initiatives involving people from ethnic minority groups. He highlighted in particular the important role played by the social partners in the fight against racism.

Speaking at the same conference, the general secretary of ETUC, Emilio Gabaglio, reiterated the trade unions' support for the European Year Against Racism, but at the same time stressed the importance of going beyond declarations and giving the Community proper jurisdiction over all areas of discrimination. This is currently restricted to equality between men and women, but should also include discrimination on the grounds of race, religion, age and disability. ETUC called for a general non-discrimination clause to be included in the revised Treaty, and wants to see greater jurisdiction for the Community over the rights of third-country immigrants.

Speaking for the Union of Industrial and Employers' Confederations of Europe (UNICE), its general secretary, Zygmunt Tyszkiewicz, underlined employers' support for the European Year. UNICE itself has issued guidelines to help employers act against the incidence of racism in the workplace.

At the social dialogue summit in Florence in October 1995, the social partners ETUC, UNICE and the European Centre of Enterprises with Public Participation and of Enterprises of General Economic Interest (CEEP) adopted a declaration on measures to combat racism and xenophobia, which covered the areas of policy and planning, recruitment and selection, training and development, implementation, dismissal and redundancies and effective approaches to discrimination. This declaration opposed all discrimination on the grounds of race or ethic origin in the labour market and was supportive of positive action where this was required to improve access for under-represented groups.

March also saw the launch of a Commission proposal for the establishment of a monitoring centre for racism and xenophobia and a call for projects aimed at tackling racism.

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