During the Commission of the Bishop’s Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) organised inter-religious conference “Shaping the Future of Work”, Mgr. Antoine Hérouard, President of the COMECE Social Affairs Commission, officially presented the reflection on the changes in the labour world, encouraging the EU to shape the digital and ecological transformations of our economy and society aiming to the common good.
The conference was held at the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) on 27 November 2018.
The report is the result of a year long process of consultation and dialogue that started in November 2017 with representatives of the European institutions and Catholic-inspired organisations and representatives of young European Christian workers movements – including the Young Christian Workers.
The COMECE document suggests 17 policy recommendations that range from the promotion of international labour standards and the social economy to special provisions on tax justice and workers in transition. Some of these include:
1) Ensure decent working conditions in all forms of employment: Workers should be entitled to a core set of enforceable rights, including health and safety protection, access to mandatory training and information, and access to adequate social protection.
2) Facilitate the exchanges of good practice on decent working hours: With the spread of mobile work devices a culture has developed of permanent availability. The EU should secure working hours that respect health and human dignity and include a “right to disconnect”.
3) Rethinking the notion of education: In childhood and youth, education lays the foundation for a self-determined life, but in a rapidly changing world of work it should become the constant element of working life. The European Commission should promote life-long learning schemes and assess the possibility of introducing personal learning accounts that workers could use to pay for education and retraining.
Quoting the reflection paper, Mgr. Hérouard identified the challenges in the current shift and called the EU and its Member States to take the ecological and digital transition as an opportunity and to shape both trends towards a common European vision of a decent, sustainable and participative world of work for all.
During the conference, Mgr. Jean-Claude Hollerich SJ, President of COMECE, highlighted the role of work as an integral part of human identity and instrument to care for Creation and stated that “religions are called to remind Europe that our society is composed by human persons, not by statistics”.
The conference was co-organised by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the EESC, COMECE and its faith-based partners as a contribution to the recently launched ILO centenary initiative on the future of work.
The event gathered more than 200 persons from the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths with the participation of Mairead McGuinness, First Vice-President of the European Parliament, Luca Jahier, President of the European Economic and Social Committee, Heinz Koller, ILO Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia and MEPs Claude Rolin (EPP) and Patrizia Toia (S&D).