The European Group for Workers’ Pastoral Care (GEPO) met in Manchester between the 15th-17th of November for its annual conference to discuss topics around the theme of the Conference: “Social Europe, Workers’ Movements and Social Dialogue - A Common Vision for the European Social Foundation.”
The YCW were invited to attend the conference and represent a perspective of young workers in the overall discussions, which were themselves guided over the Conference days by the SEE-JUDGE-ACT method.
Day 1 - focusing on the SEE stage - included an introduction to the topic of social rights within Europe and a presentation from a British perspective on the current challenges being faced by workers in many industries today. Representatives from the GMB union highlighted the growing concerns about conditions within workplaces like Amazon and the gig economy.
Following this was a visit to the Co-Op HQ in Manchester, where presentations were given on the strengths of co-operative working and the positive contributions that co-operative ways of working have had on social rights.
The following day used the JUDGE approach to look at several aspects around the development of a common social doctrine and future of European harmonisation. Three workshops were set up to allow more time to focus on several important issues, including: social dialogue, minimum wage and the balance between work and personal life.
During these workshops our National Training and Development Worker, Marc Besford, was asked to speak on the issues facing many young people across Europe. He outlined how the challenges of Brexit, Zero-Hour Contracts and young people unable to find a permanent posts are growing issues of concern. He also raised the increasing need to discuss the current state of young people’s mental health.
On the final day, which looked at the ACT phase of the method, the conference began to map out their strategy for a common approach to their work across Europe. This began by setting out the various networks that each delegate could plug into, drawing on our partnerships and allies across the various movements and organisations.
The subsequent action was to decide upon a joint declaration of what the GEPO conference would deliver as an outcome and how this could lead to further collaboration in future. A central part of the conference declaration was the call for an agreement on “decent and good working conditions for each citizen, conditions that will allow everyone to enjoy a high degree of protection, to be able to participate in all aspects of social life and to aspire for themselves and their families to a happy life.”
This core tenant of a social Europe will need to be reinforced through a variety of other actions, including: meeting political parties to discuss European social rights; commit to using these rights to base future policies; mobilise and train members across Europe to join the campaign; encourage campaigning in European elections and make a firm commitment to the weakest and most vulnerable.
Marc commented on the 3-day conference, saying: “This was a fantastic event to be part of and I was happy to be asked to speak up on behalf of young people and the many challenges they face. There is a lot of turbulence across Europe at the moment and the future of social rights need to be at the top of the agenda. Thank you to Kevin Flanagan and all those who helped organise the conference.”