Contributions from the Dutch delegation to the Amsterdam 27-29/9 Euromarches-meeting and ESF.

On income

The Euromarches have decided to run for a guaranteed social minimal standard to all people in all European countries. For this standard we refer to the Gross National Product (GNP), when we claim that this social standard should 50% of this GNP per capita. The Dutch social standard would rise by 15% when our objectives were met. Even while the road to bring this perspective any closer will be different in each country, we will bring a halt to the downward spiral of concurrence among countries to attrac export oriented industries with happy conditions, such as no minimal wages and no guaranteed minimal social standards. This standard is of mayor importance and should be included in the European Constitution and the EU Social Charter.


Others that struggle for a social standard refer to different figures to express its level and content. The EAPN (European Anti Poverty Network) calls for 60% of a countries median-income level; the FNV (National Union Federation) calls for a different (lower) percentage and the FAIRPA (European coalition of elders - in which also the FNV participates) calls for even different figures in northern and southern European countries. The point of reference for the Euromarches, the GNP, is argued by the consideration that all incomes, also company profits, should be involved - which is neglected in the median income level.

Among the participants in the Euromarches still discussions continue concerning all detail related to a social minimum standard. The debates touches the issues related to the link between labour and income and »work ethos«. Also the capitalism is evaluated differently. And some campaign for a « basic income » where others want to stop the forced job applications, while others campaign for improvement of working conditions, economic democracy. The Dutch delegation doesn't believe in one strategy for all participants in all European countries. With all their differences we se a convergence on a guaranteed social standard and the reduction of precarious labour conditions.

The argument used by opponents of our objectives, that companies and employment will disappear when minimal standards will be introduced are not valid. Still the international trade and production is a marginal thing when related to the internal European trade and production. Having said this, the European trade-blocks towards countries from the south should disappear. Every day the debate on our future economic system becomes more urgent. We hope the ESF meeting in Florence will sparkle this debate even stronger.



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On Workfare

The Dutch delegation strongly opposes any system of job allocation and workfare under pressure that makes unemployed accept any job no matter its payment, its flexible and other 3-D conditions. We opposes methods of cuts in social benefits and other ways to discipline the unemployed just to fuel the concurrence among themselves and those that still happened to be employed just to supply employers with even cheaper labour. Both unemployed and employed in all European countries today face workfare of this kind. The EC in Luxembourg promoted workfare as a common politics, reducing the room for alternative solutions.

Precarious Labour

Unemployed should find ways to share their struggle with low-paid workers, both in the formal and informal economy, to find the strength to improve their living conditions. They all face exclusion from social welfare and basic rights but for different reasons. Much of the popular xenophobic and racist projects provide the people involved with arguments to withhold their solidarity among each other. All face exploitation and the deterioration of the quality of labour due to flexibilization, and. are victimized by the continuing processes of flexibilization

In this coalition apart from our struggle for a social standard we have to join the struggles of them involved in a daily fights to prevent a further downgrading of working conditions, payment and flexible working hours - all the way to a reinvented informal economy. Although never vanished the informal economy grows in size and significance in the very heart of modern capitalist economies. The precarization of working conditions follows the neo-liberal socio-economic project of deregulation and flexibilization of economic activities. As a result workers loose their capacity to defend their rights and their capacity to organize and to find strength in union-actions. These neo-liberal policies expresses them selves in a growing income gap among workers. This fuels the social segmentation of living quarters and the service sector. Through mechanism of outsourcing a growing number of economic activities are pushed in the informal economy; where the smaller entrepreneurs, unable to challenge the concurrence in a legal way, catches up with informal survival strategies of people. In this development the immigration policies functions as catalyst. The bad risks turn to an unequal proportion on the backs of migrants, women and youth. They fail time and again to get a proper income, public services become unavailable and/or do no longer fits to their needs. A growing number of people become very dependent to an employer, and they loose all control on their time and live.

Our objectives for this struggle:

  • stop wage reduction for worker under 23 yr.
  • The same payment for the same job
  • Clear and valued difference between working time and free time
  • High incomes, higher taxes
  • Open borders


At several meetings and discussions we expressed our experiences and thoughts on the precarious labour.

  1. Unionism among precarious workers is low, and if they act collectively - apart form monkeywrenching - they act isolated. Unions and activists are not informed, and if they are it is (to) late. Unions became to formalized and burocratic and de mayority of the workers lack the experience to mobilize internal and external forces and to »direct« the conflict. Unions in the Netherlands can no longer neglect the pressence of a huge number of undocumented workers. For the first time ever, the chairman invited undocumented workers to join the union. This signal can and will not neglected by us.
  2. With a poor social security system and the exclusion of a lot of workers from it, even precarious labour relations can be fragile. Quit a number of their employers, avoiding regulation by habbit, are not easy to handle from within. Frequently outside pressure, organised by allys and groups, can make big difference to adress exploitation and other injustices. In the seventies of the last century there happened to be some solidarity-groups, where intelectuals/activists and workers joined forces. Experiences of this kind we see in McDonalds, in France and England. In France, due to the combination of a horrific struggle of some workers and the support from solidarity groups, the company was forced to undo its firing. In England the McLibel campaign seriously hurts the companies brand.
  3. In order to improve our capacity to inform and support undocumented workers we need a better knowledge of their legal rights, relevant procedures and informal organized facilities and structures that can be of help to survive.
  4. Protests agains police raids in city quarters to find and expell illegal workers can find support among local communities. With local allies and institutions national politics can be neutralized to some extent. In the Netherlands the same institution that control quality of the workplace and the implementation of national agreements between employers and unions, also controlls for undocumented workers. Today up to 30% of their capacity is devoted to this last issue. Unions and local political authorities can influence these priorities.
  5. To inform and mobilize precarious workers electronics appears to become more important. Jobbers working in restaurants all over Europe finds their e-mail adress as a most solid thing in their live. Through the web they might find relevant information about vacant jobs, but also about the employers and calls for action.
  6. A network of activists founded an illegal mediation companie (Bureau Zwart?Werk) to help undocumented workers be introduced in networks related to the informal economy. Apart from their mediation-role this initiative - at tacktics of civil obediance - raised questions in the public debate about the practices of exclusion and exploitation.






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