Trade union congress calls for greater solidarity
The issue of solidarity was one of the main themes of the congress of Belgium’s Confederation of Christian Trade Unions (CSC/ACV), held in October 2006. The congress also prepared for the forthcoming negotiations on an inter-professional agreement for 2007–2008, as well as adopting important positions on certain current social matters.
In early October 2006, the Confederation of Christian Trade Unions (Confédération des Syndicats Chrétiens/Algemeen Christelijk Vakverbond, CSC/ACV) published its annual statistics. CSC/ACV brings together more than 1.6 million affiliate members and plays an important role in the Belgian social dialogue system. The confederation’s annual statistics publication was used as a working paper in preparation for CSC/ACV’s thirty-third statutory congress, held on 19–21 October 2006 in the northwest port city of Ostend, bringing together over 1,000 people.
Themes of congress
Following more than six months of internal preparation, the congress defined the broad issues for debate and action by the trade union confederation. The congress was also used as the occasion to draw comparisons with the previous CSC/ACV congress, held four years ago, which dealt with the issue of fair pay (BE0211301N).
A central theme of this year’s congress was the important issue of solidarity, which was discussed by delegates of the confederation. It is around this major axis that CSC/ACV defined its principal actions and future positions, which will define the forthcoming inter-professional negotiations for 2007–2008 (BE0611029I).
Four main pillars
At the end of the congress meeting, a total of 77 guiding principles were released. These proposals will define the actions of CSC/ACV for the next four years. The proposals mainly revolve around four pillars.
- The first pillar relates to an attempt to ‘reinforce solidarity’, in particular by insisting on the importance of a strong inter-professional agreement, which is autonomously negotiated by the two sides of industry; it also underlines the importance of fair taxation for all.
- Secondly, CSC/ACV wants to increase ‘solidarity in work’ by fighting against discrimination. Moreover, the trade union confederation wants to continue its work in the area of guaranteeing the rights of workers and of increasing the protection of trade unions. Within this framework, CSC/ACV reaffirmed the essential role of trade unionism at European level.
- In addition, the confederation aims to reinforce ‘solidarity for employment’. In this context, proposals were discussed in relation to the following issues: increasing employment; reorganising the distribution of work; providing a supplement for young unemployed people, redundant workers and immigrants; and improving the European legal framework with regard to measures being taken to restructure companies.
- Lastly, CSC/ACV underlined the importance of ‘working for solidarity’. This axis of actions considers not only the trade union claims about the representation of workers in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) (BE0603019I), but also the implications for CSC/ACV in relation to the new International Trade Union Confederation (Confédération syndicale internationale, ITUC), founded in November 2006.
Finally, the congress was used as the occasion for CSC/ACV to outline its position with regard to three particularly current and much discussed issues in the Belgian social context. Through the words of its President, Luc Cortebeeck, CSC/ACV clearly expressed its views against any regionalisation measures in relation to social security, labour law and collective agreements. As Mr Cortebeeck outlined in his closing speech at the congress:
…we do not want a state where solidarity is exhausted. We do not accept a reform of the state which calls into question solidarity between workers, independently of their work or place of residence. … The fundamental mechanisms of solidarity between workers must remain federal: social security, labour law and inter-professional collective agreements.
Cécile Arnould, Institut des Sciences du Travail (IST), Catholic University of Leuven