Monday

20th Jan 2020

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 20 years of archives. 30-day 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).

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Brexit - Europe's 'Versailles moment'?

The spectre of another peace agreement looms: that of the doomed Versailles treaty, which, by sowing resentment and perpetuating misunderstanding of each other's true ambitions and principles, created more tensions than it dissolved.

Why EU subsidy schemes don't work - the evidence

Counter to popular beliefs among policymakers, the positive effects of support schemes are found to be very limited. In order to revitalise Europe, the newly appointed EU Commission needs to reconsider government's role in innovation and entrepreneurship.

Can the Green Deal – and Europe – succeed?

We have invested €200bn in research and innovation since 1984, but have we achieved any leadership in quantum, semiconductors, storage, artificial intelligence? The simple answer is no.

News in Brief

  1. EU to cut pre-accession aid to Turkey by 75 percent
  2. Libya peace talks: 'new spirit' to find solution
  3. EU financial firms flock to UK
  4. 'No objection in principle' on Huawei cooperation, EU says
  5. French aircraft carrier goes to Middle East amid tensions
  6. EU suggests temporary ban on facial recognition
  7. EU industry cries foul on Chinese restrictions
  8. 'Devil in detail', EU warns on US-China trade deal

Column

Why nations are egomaniacs

A nation, Reinhold Niebuhr wrote, is not capable of altruism. Even less so, if such a group has formed on the basis of strong emotions and casts itself as the "saviour of the nation".

Maltese murder - the next rule-of-law crisis in EU?

While Poland's government is escalating its rule of law crisis by introducing even more drastic measures against the country's judges, another problem is looming over the EU's commitment to upholding the rule of law: Malta.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us