Doorn groupholds fifth annual meeting

In September 2001, the 'Doorn group' of trade unions from Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands held its fifth annual meeting. The unions jointly evaluated recent collective agreements and discussed issues and demands for their forthcoming bargaining rounds. In 2002, the unions involved will focus their cooperation on the issue of 'lifelong learning', as well as pay policy.

On 6-7 September 2001, nearly 50 leading representatives of trade unions from Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands met in Houffalize (Belgium) for the fifth annual joint meeting of the 'Doorn group'. As well as major sectoral unions, the participants represented the major national confederations, as follows:

  • the Belgian General Federation of Labour (Fédération Générale du Travail de Belgique/Algemeen Belgisch Vakverbond, FGTB/ABVV) and the Confederation of Christian Trade Unions (Confédération des Syndicats Chrétiens/Algemeen Christelijk Vakverbond, CSC/ACV);
  • the German Federation of Trade Unions (Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund, DGB);
  • the Luxembourg General Confederation of Labour (Confédération Générale du Travail du Luxembourg, CGT-L) and the Luxembourg Confederation of Christian Trade Unions (Lëtzebuerger Chrëschtleche Gewerkschafts-Bond, LCGB); and
  • the Christian Trade Union Federation (Christelijk Nationaal Vakverbond, CNV), the Dutch Trade Union Federation (Federatie Nederlandse Vakbeweging, FNV) and the Unie-Federation of Managerial and Staff Unions (Unie Middelbaar en Hoger Personeel, Unie MHP) from the Netherlands.

In addition, representatives from the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) were invited to participate as observers in the meeting.

The Doorn group takes its name from the Dutch town where in 1998 the unions concerned adopted a joint declaration which expressed a strong need for close cross-border coordination of collective bargaining within the EU Economic and Monetary Union (DE9810278F). Since 1997, the unions involved have held annual meetings to evaluate recent bargaining rounds and to discuss their future collective bargaining policy. The most recent annual meetings took place in Haltern (Germany) in 1999 (DE9909215N) and in Luxembourg in 2000 (DE0009281F). In between the annual meetings, a small transnational working group, composed of union representatives from all countries involved, has organised a regular and intensive exchange of information on current developments in collective bargaining.

The Doorn group summarised the main results of its 2001 annual meeting in a joint press release, as follows.

  1. In 1999-2001, the unions involved believe that they concluded 'responsible' collective agreements. At the same time, the Doorn group expresses concern about the relatively weak economic growth in the euro-zone (the EU Member States that are introducing the single currency), which the unions believe is partly caused by the restrictive monetary policy of the European Central Bank. The unions also underline that a policy of 'wage restraint' is not an adequate tool to strengthen economic growth, but on the contrary might further weaken internal demand within the euro-zone. Therefore, the unions want to continue with their 'Doorn declaration' according to which collective bargaining settlements should 'correspond to the sum total of the evolution of prices and the increase in labour productivity'.
  2. Besides pay policy, the Doorn group confirms its aim of achieving a stronger coordination of so-called 'qualitative aspects' of collective bargaining. In 2002, the unions involved will focus on the issue of 'lifelong learning' and will jointly demand that: lifelong learning becomes a right for every employee; employee representatives and trade unions should be able to control employers' initiatives on continued training; and initiatives on continued training should be seen first of all as 'investments' and therefore must be paid for by employers.
  3. The 'Doorn group' also criticises all forms of indirect pay competition between countries, such as downward tax competition or competition on cuts in social security contributions. The unions involved agreed that neither of these should be taken into account when drawing up their pay claims.

Furthermore, in the period up to the next annual meeting, which should take place in the Netherlands in autumn 2002, the Doorn group wants to take the following practical steps:

  • setting up an e-mail list of the main negotiators of the unions involved. in order to improve the exchange of information on ongoing collective bargaining;
  • examining the possibility of establishing a permanent secretariat of the Doorn group; and
  • drawing up a dossier on the working time policy of the unions involved.
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