On International Migrants Day on 18 December, European trade unions pledged to:
- support the inclusion and integration of refugees into society, particularly into the workplace;
- call for increased investment in public services in order to meet the needs of refugees and local communities;
- encourage the European Commission in its efforts to develop effective EU-wide policies for asylum and warn that credible policies are also needed for legal migration and inclusion;
- urge all EU Member States to show solidarity and responsibility in welcoming and resettling refugees and to open a debate on revision of the Dublin Regulations;
- highlight the value of collective bargaining in reaching agreements between employers and workers for the integration of refugees into work, and reassuring local workers that their wages and conditions will not be undermined.
The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) is organising a conference
in Zagreb on International Migrants Day to highlight and discuss a practical and humanitarian response to the refugee crisis.
“Hundreds of thousands of desperate people are risking their lives to get to Europe,” said ETUC General Secretary Luca Visentini. “This humanitarian crisis calls for a humanitarian response. Europe cannot push people back to the sea, to war zones, or to camps with no prospect of work or education.
"Integrating refugees is the only solution: including them in society and in work wherever possible. This means investing in additional public services and increasing the number of actions to ensure equal pay for equal work. Unscrupulous employers must be stopped from exploiting refugees to drive down wages.’
EFFAT General Secretary Harald Wiedenhofer stated that "the integration of refugees escaping wars is a challenge of massive proportions. The question here isn't whether we should face up to this or not, nor should we see this as an Italian, Spanish or Greek problem – this is an out-and-out European issue and we need to play our part if we don't want to betray our European values. Yet we need to make sure that control mechanisms are in place. By providing training courses, establishing constructive relations with employers and cooperating with relevant authorities, trade unions can help address the issue of waves of refugees in Europe."
European trade unions have established some 1000 contact points across Europe to provide assistance for migrants for registration, work permits, education and other practical issues. They are now working together through the UnionMigrantNet, which was set up with the support of the ETUC.
Trade unions are in leading the inclusion and integration process of refugees into the workplace and are committed to reach fair deals for local workers and refugees, as well as representing them once they find a job.
“Solidarity is perhaps over-used as a term among trade unions,” said Luca Visentini, “but when hundreds of thousands of refugees come to Europe, it is the best word we have to describe that we must respsect human decency and avoid serious conflict.”