Tuesday

23rd Apr 2019

Opinion

Integrating refugees will also benefit trade unions

  • Investing in the interest of migrants and host societies is both an altruistic and humanitarian move as well as a selfish one (Photo: Reuters)

With a total of 1.3 million asylum applications in Europe in 2015, the issue of how to integrate refugees into our societies is one of the most important challenges. Their fast integration into the labour market is key.

A recent European Parliament report on the labour market integration of refugees stresses the fundamental role of social partners in this domain.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

However, the general fear of a massive influx of a young and less-qualified labour force exercising pressure on social and labour protection standards means that trade unions are reluctant to address the issue.

Such an influx of manpower may indeed have an impact on labour laws and social protection standards; it might challenge minimum wages and increase precarious work, not least in the name of flexibility and employability.

A recent article from Eurofound highlighted this particular point: “While employers claim that refugees could help address skills shortages, unions are concerned about the consequences for the working conditions of both the refugees and lower-paid segments of the existing workforce."

With the low-skills sector under particular pressure, the suspicion that migration will only serve the elites and not the poorer classes could be oil on the fire of anti-immigration sentiment by pointing at labour market integration measures for refugees, favouring them at the expense of a forgotten working class.

Not surprisingly, trade unions have been apprehensive about the potential reactions of their traditional members, possible victims of future labour distribution battles who may see themselves betrayed by their own representatives.

And yet trade unions are called upon to invest more in helping migrants set foot in labour markets.

An investment in the interest of migrants and host societies is both an altruistic and humanitarian move as well as a selfish one: the expansion of trade unions’ roles and responsibilities may also allow them to play a decisive card in the mitigation of the potentially negative consequences of massive labour market integration, and, last but not least, to fully tap into the potential of refugees as future employees and trade union members.

Having new and active members with a migrant background is synonymous with adapting to changes in society – and being fit and prepared to face the future.

Klaus Heeger is the Secretary General of the European Confederation of Independent Trade Unions (CESI).

How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament

British plans to - maybe - take part in EU elections risk legal chaos in the next European Parliament, which could be resolved only by treaty change - an unlikely prospect.

Press freedom and the EU elections

We are campaigning for the next European Commission to appoint a commissioner with a clear mandate to take on the challenge of the protection of freedom, independence and diversity of journalism.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Ukraine comic-president invited to EU capitals
  2. Trump's Israel plan to 'test' EU resolve
  3. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  4. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  5. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  6. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  7. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  8. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us