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European Marches against Unemployment - News and Archives
Marches européennes / NEWS
Bulletin edited by European Marches against unempoyement, job insecurity and social exclusion, october 1997
A new start in Luxembourg
October 4 and 5 1997 The European Marches follows in the path of the European March
The first meeting of the European Marches (EM) was held during the week-end of October 4 and 5. Major organisational decisions were taken by the delegates. Amongst them, the adoption of the constitutive motion setting up the network and the choise of name. The network will be called, ³European Marches against Unemployment, Job Insecurity and Social Exclusion². It will have a loose informal structure and be pluralistic. The first concrete initiative of the network was the approval of the call for an EM demonstration on November 20, in Luxembourg city at the same time as the meeting of the European Summit on Employment. At the Luxembourg week end conference, delegations representing 11 countries* and a 100 people were present, irrefutable proof of the dynamism created by the launch of the European Marches. The European Cordination convened October 4-5 Conference at the Paris meeting, June 28, 1997. The meeting acknowledged extent of the Amsterdam rally success and the need to decide on the network1s future aims. Contacts made during the two months of marching in Europe merit further action that call for the defining new objectives within the framework of the Florence Appeal and the List of Demands of the Brussels Assizes, the sitting up of a network to diffuse information and initiate actions.
* Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Great-Britain, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Spanish state, Sweden.
An open-structured and pluralistic network
The European Coordination meeting in Paris, June 28, prepared the constitutive motion text. The Luxembourg conference decided to keep the term ³European Marches² as this clearly identifies the network and its origins in the Amsterdam Rally. It should be noted, that the network is in no way a new organisation, nor does seek to compete with existing European union structures (the European Trade Union Congress, ETUC), or with exisitng organisation of the unemployed, (the European Network of the Unemployed, ENU), or with any other organisation involved in the fight against social exclusion. The network has a loose structure and decisions are not enforceable on organisations or collectives who are members. Decisions are not taken on a majority basis but arrived at only after working towards a consensus. The network is pluralistic. The varying differences in the economic situations within the European Union, can only serve the exchange of ideas and actions rather than create division as already evident in members behaviour. There is a general acceptance of different approaches to common objectives, such as the fight against unemployment, job insecurity and social exclusion.
1. The continual increase in unemployment, job insecurity and social exclusion, is the consequence of the unremitting development of capitalism forging ever closer ties between liberal market economic politics and business. This has led an acceleration in the competition for jobs between workers. These factors call for coordinated social action on an international scale. The economic development of the European Union, on the basis of neo-liberal ideas is undemocratic, with disasterous consequences for working people, those in insecure jobs and the unemployed throughout Europe. The situation is further intensified by the Treaty of Maastricht, the Stability Pact, the Schengen and Amsterdam Agreements. These developments call for European wide solidarity and joint activities, with links on a global level.
2. The European Marches and the Amsterdam Rally, for the first time created a forum for the exchange of ideas and joint European action involving salaired-wage earners, the unemployed and the socially excluded. As a result of these successes of these experiences, we have decided to construct an European network with world-wide connections against unemployment, job insecurity and work flexibility, and all forms of exclusion, ready to unite in solidarity with people, workers and the unemployed of the entier world.
3. The basic demands of the network are contained in the two documents published during the setting up of the European Marches: The Florence Appeal, the basic text which launched the marches, and the List of Demands, drawn up the Brussels Assizes. The core demands of the network are : a massive reduction in the working week with the creation of new jobs with neither loss of salary, or purchasing power, for the right to an income to enable everyone to have a decent standard of living; the redistribution of wealth within the framework of a social and democratic Europe, open, united, and committed environmental policies, and which has no discrimination on the basis of race, national identity or borders. We want a Europe which garantees social rights, equality between men and women and the free movement of people.
4. The network seeks to connect throughout Europe, all unemployment associations, trade unions organisations, activists, grass-roots associations, and all other groups committed to the fight against unemployment, and all forms of exclusion and wanting to work on a joint plateform.
5. This European network for action and discussion will in no way seek to replace existing networks of wage-earners, unemployed, small farmers or youth organisations. On the contrary, it is hoped it will contribute to reinforce common goals already emerged since the European Marches. The network will be open and pluralistic and makes no claims to constitute a new organisation.
6. The network is a means for circulating information about our struggles and the conditions in which they take place. The network serves as a forum for debate with an open exchange of views. It will also contribute to working out commun positions where ever possible. The network will organise initiatives and encourage contacts, actions and coordinated resistance.
7. All major decisions committing the network will be taken in the European Coordination meetings to which all members are invited to come or send a representative, and where most of the European countries involved are present. All decisions are to be taken on the basis of a consensus. Each member or association remains free to undertake their own intiatives; The European secretariat has been set up only to establish a functioning office and has no policy-making mandat. Participation in any part of the network structure must entail a financial contribution according to means, so as to ensure the existence and independence of the network.
8. The network is called ³The European Marches against unemployment, job insecurity and social exclusion² in order to emphasize the origin of the network and the continuation of a joint struggle. We will keep marching together, united and without frontiers... (revised translation, post LuxembOurg meeting. October 1997).
An informal and loose structure Once the principles of the network were adopted, the next step was to create a minimum number of rules governing its functions and finance. >From the beginning of the Marches, a mandat was given to the French collective of the European Coordination secretariat, supported by the Belgium and Dutch collectives. However, at the time, this method of functioning proved not to entirely sotisfactory as the French collective soon realised the need for more multi-european structure to share the work load. The central geographic position of Paris was an advantage due to chronic funding problems just to hold European-level meeting. Decisions to change the structure were frequently postphoned it coped well enough up till then. The European Coordination Secretariat has no directive role. It has a practical functional role of applying decisions taken collectively, circulating information, preparing the European Coordination meetings, and coordinating joint initiatives, such as the future demonstration in Luxembourg city on November 20,1997. Other topics included looking at ways for involving other countries. Not the least of our problems requiring solutions are translations of documents ! A decision was taken at Luxembourg to use only French and English for all communications. Other languages would be ideal but are beyond our means at the moment. For the time being, national groups will be responsible for their own translations. We need help. Any support and ideas are welcomed, as all work is being carried out by volunteers.
A network bulletin will have to be printed because many collectives have no acces to e-mail. The particular bulletin will have a temporary title, ³European Marches / News² (for both French and English versions). Subscriptions to the Bulletin, will be the sole financial source of the network. As subscribers, individuals, organisations and associations will have receive news about activities and current debates based on information send to the European secretariat. The more subscriptions received, the greater the possibility for improving contents and presentation of the Bulletin. However, the postal cost of a paper version of the Bulletin are a financial strain. Additional expenses include editorial, production and printing costs. We are counting on subscriptions of support to help the Bulletin develop. Most of the Bulletin1s articles and information will also be sent out by E-Mail. Exchange rates remain a problem (the euro is not yet common currency...!). So until further notice, we prefer that each national collective regroups all subscriptions for the Bulletin and then transfers the money directly to the secretariat in Paris.
Initiatives Plans for future EM initiatives were the subject of lengthy debate at the Luxembourg meeting during the October week end. On the one hand, we all know that it would be impossible to relive the Amsterdam Rally every six months. On the other hand, we need to fix long term aims to continue forward from Amsterdam. A vue point widely shared, was that we should not limit ourselves to demonstrating everytime there was a European Summit. Although the organisations of the host country put strong pressure on the EM to do something. How can we solve this contradiction? Rather, just say that the question is being studied and that one of the tasks of the next European Coordination meeting in January 1998, will be to suggest possible solutions.
November 20, 1997 Luxembourg
The European Coordination sees the European Summit on Employment is a special event. It is impossible for us to organise the same degree of mobilisation on the scale of Amsterdam rally. However, our positive evaluations of the Marches, leads us to think that this might have pushed EU Member State governments to ³do something² about unemployment. Our own actions were just one of a series of events, such as government changes in Britain and France, ETUC pressure, demands of the Jospin1s government, as well as the actions for full employment based on initiatives of the network of European economists, and members of European parliament, headed by Ken Coates. During discussions examining at these events, somepeople thoght that the ETUC was an obstacle to efficient and unitary action on employment and exclusion. However, it is unthikable that EM be absent on November 20, in Luxembourg. The ETUC have decided to organise a European demonstration, and the European Marches will be present. Mobilisation will mainly involve regions closest to Luxembourg (within a radius of 100 to 200 km), other organisations should send delegations (probably a large group from Italy, the British delegation also plans to be present). The EM estimate 2000 demonstrators. The ETUC plan a trade union cortege of 20000 people. Since no strike has been called for that occasion, the ETUC demonstration will be primarily made up of full time trade unionists and delegations. The French Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT), although not a member of the ETUC, will participate in the demonstration, and probably form the largest contingent with the Belgium unionists no doubt . The ETUC demonstration will take place at 17h.00. The European Marches have decided to fix a rendez-vous earlier in the day so as to make their presence felt. Street activities in Luxembourg city are planned. Technical preparation are the responsiblity of the Belgium and French collectives. They will pass on details to those national organisations involved.
The next series of European Summits will held in the country of future European presidents. The British delegation want to organise an international demonstration in Cardiff, on May 1st, to coincide with the British presidency probably in June 1998. However, this might be difficult as many members of the EM have already committed themselves to demonstrations on that day. (May 1st, has been chosen by the EU to announce countries eligible for the Euro). If the British project goes ahead as planned, it should be possible to send delegations to Cardiff. This is still under review. Likewise, the Germans want the EM to organise some sort of initiative in their country, so as to mobilise people. This proposition is also under review.
Summer University, 1998
The Brussels Assizes, February 1997, was an important occasion for mutual understanding of social movements in members1 countries and was a step forward in the setting up a social European movement based on a List of Demands. An idea came up at the Luxembourg conference, for organising a summer university in order to have time to discuss matters in depth. Greece and Germany undertook to examine the possibilty of organising such an event in their particular country. The European Coordination meeting in January 1998, will most likely reach a conclusive decision. Meeting of Trade Unions members of the network Members of the network belong to varied organisations. such as unemployment associations, homeless action groups, unions etc. Unionists at the Luxembourg week end got together and decided to convene a meeting of European trade unionists. They share similar problems, such as their position with regards to ETUC, etc.
On Saturday, September 13, 1997, demonstrators from all over Italy got together in answer to an appeal made by numerous organisations, both social and political with trade unions. The rally was called to oppose the Northern Ligue1s plan to split from the rest of Italy in order to control their own economic and social development based on ultra neo-liberale policies. In contrast to this narrow chauvanistic behaviour, the rally1s organisators defended the idea of an Italy with an open border policy for all the people of Europe and in support of their struggles for an unified world the open invitation to the Zapatist delegation and representatives of the European Marches being an exemple.
Reduction in working hours: France gives the time
The French prime minister announced on Friday October 10, a new bill for the legal reduction of the working week without loss of salary. French employers swiftly made their opposition to the new measures known. The president of the French employers, (Confédération Nationale du Patronat Français, CNPF) resigned, reckoning that his post should be taken over by a ³combative president.² The reduction in working hours, is a logical argument that is defended with varing shades of nuances by unions, and associations of the unemployed in France. But all unemployed associations (AC!, APEIS, MNCP) are united in their demand a 32 hour week tied to job creation and without loss of purchasing power for wage-earners, whilest the trade unions remained relatively divided on the question. The French government1s position immediately attracted European interest with resounding effect. The Prodi government crisis in Italy, could solve their crisis on such similar propositions as the reduction of working hours as the French measures are based on an agreement which refers to ³35 hours in 2001² while stipulating it application in practice. The French government1s declaration of the new measures on October 10, is however very vague. In actual fact, nothing has been fixed, so only mobilisation by wage-earners and the unemployed will overcome obstacles to a reduction in working hours with the creation of new jobs. The legislative timetable given for negociations (2 years for business employing more than 10 people, 4 years for the rest) risks being used by employers to apply job flexibility and intensify the work routine, cutting out any positive effects of a reduction in the working week. The French prime minister, Lionel Jospin, stated that negociations should include the organisation of work and changes in the working schedule.There is a great risk that French business will jump on these new provisions, such as the cancellation of a fixed working day, that can be used by them to avoid hiring labour and which will entail a deterioration in working conditions, because wage-earners will be forced to work according to the number of hours and length of time chosen by the employer. Likewise, even though the government has declared its intention to rexamine ³abuses² arising from legislation encourageing part-time employment, nothing has been clarified in the new measures planned. Meanwhile, part-time work is increasingly imposed and wide spread, to the disavantage of women in particular. Financial incentives have been ear-marked for businesses introducing shorter working hours, at little financial cost to employers. Lionel Jospin stated that 35 hours will be introducted without loss of salary, but the reduction will be tied to a ³moderation of salaries² which means in employers1 jargon, a freeze or a lost of purchasing power. Actions have already been planned in France, which will allow for the convergence of those involved in the social movement. For November 15, the Appeal launched by the National Collective for the Rights of Women, for a demonstration in Paris; and of course, the November 20, demonstration in Luxembourg. Other initiatives will also be planned. The bill on the 35 hour week will not be presented before the French Assembly before the beginning of 1998. By that time, wage-earners, associations and trade unionists should for time to build together a mass mobilisation equal to stakes involved. On a European level, the stakes are high : the creation of a movement for the reduction in working hours concerning each and everyone. On November 20, in Luxembourg city, we will be there to defend that idea !
Next meeting of the European
The next meeting will be held on week end of January 10-11, 1998, in Paris. Inscription forms will sent as soon as possible.
Canal March ... is still marching. The cassettes of the Avril to June 1997 marches, filmed by the marchers themselves are available in a collection of 4 video cassettes. Two new cassettes have been made: a shortened version lasting 2 hours of the 4 cassettes and an abreged version lasting 30 minutes. Both are now on sale. Prices : 2 hour version : 140 FF each; multi-orders: 100 FF each. 30 minute abreged version : 90 FF. Please send checks made out to : Canal Marches. Addressed to : Canal Marches 104 rue des Couronnes, 75020 Paris France.
Marches europeennes / NEWS is edited by the association : Marches europeennes, 104, rue des Couronnes, 75020 Paris Directeur de publication : Christophe Aguiton Redaction : Robert Cremieux Translation for the English version : Yvonne Rocomaure
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Last Modified: Wednesday, November 20, 1997