A chronicle of FERPA : Its origins and activitiesBy Georges DEBUNNE
The ETUC’s Milan Congress (May 1985) chaired by Georges Debunne, instructed the Executive Committee in a specific resolution :
“to give attention to the problems of pensioners and old people, so as to assist affiliated organizations, particularly through providing a full flow of information, in determining the appropriate policies ;
to examine the possibilities of achieving a better coordination of the work of affiliated organizations and bodies related to them in this area”.
The impetus given by ETUC Confederal Secretary Ettore Massucci, brought the ETUC Secretariat to an awareness that :
representation of pensioned workers could not be left to a mixed bag of miscellaneous organizations and groups ;
the ETUC had to become the Community institutions’ liaisee of choice in pensions as in other matters ;
the ETUC needed an appropriate organization to improve its defence of pensioners’ interests ;
elderly persons should have an active say in asserting their own rights.
A preparatory phase
The Secretariat of the European Trade Union Confederation put the first wheels in motion to give effect to the two points of the Congress Resolution :
an initial working meeting in close cooperation with the European Trade Union Institute, held on 30 September 1986 ;
a position paper and work programme on mapping out the broad priority demands, presented to the December Executive Committee ;
a seminar in Florence on 22 and 23 October to present the broad outlines of the programme of common demands and an overview of options for a coordinating structure.
At the outcome of this preparatory phase, the Secretariat of the European Trade Union Confederation considered that :
employed and retired workers must unite in the struggle to defend and strengthen the welfare state and the principle of solidarity ;
the trade union movement must champion the interests of workers even in retirement, to secure their economic and social protection, by strengthening their presence in their own organizations ;
the European Trade Union Confederation is the main liaisee of the European institutions on the problems of retired workers ;
the Secretariat of the European Trade Union Confederation and the Executive Committee must be supported to this end by a Coordinating Committee on retired workers composed of appointed representatives of the affiliated confederations.
Establishment of the Coordinating Committee on Retired Workers
The Coordinating Committee on Retired Workers (CCRW) consisting of delegates appointed by the affiliated confederations, was set up in Madrid on 2 and 3 October 1988 at a meeting chaired by José Mora.
The CCRW had a European Bureau comprised of a President, Georges Debunne (FGTB), Vice Presidents Jack Jones (TUC) and Blasio, replaced somewhat later by G. Rastrelli (CGIL).
The CCRW then met twice a year to look into various problems experienced by retired workers, with a view to defining the European Trade Union Confederation’s position on the most pressing of these problems and encouraging the Commission of the European Economic Community to intervene in these areas.
Among the many topics addressed by the CCRW were :
the fundamental rights of retired workers in connection with the Community Declaration of the Fundamental Social Rights of Workers of 1989, especially points 24 and 25.
the convergence of social security objectives in the EEC.
The ETUC Executive Committee meeting on 9 10 February 1989 welcomed the establishment of the European Pensioners’ Coordination Committee in Madrid, on 3 and 4 October 1988, with the participation of delegates from the affiliated confederations, as provided by the Resolution on retired workers of 11 and 12 February 1988, and the full cooperation of representatives of the Commission, European Parliament and Council of Europe.
The ETUC Executive Committee :
deeply regretted that the working document on the social dimension of the Internal Market, adopted by the European Commission, completely ignored the interests of European pensioners ;
called on the European Commission, European Parliament, Economic and Social Committee and all Governments to put right this untenable omission.
The Executive Committee also recognized the valuable work done by the Council of Europe on pensions and elderly persons’ living conditions.
It noted that the European Code of Social Security of 16 April 1964, and especially the Additional Protocol to the European Social Charter adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on 5 May 1988 on the right of elderly persons to social protection, contained positive points for upholding the interests of retired workers.
Cooperation between the ETUC and CCRW
The Executive Committee, based on the declarations and resolutions of the ETUC’s Stockholm Congress (9 to 13 May 1988) demanded as a matter of priority on a proposal from the CCRW :
that all retired workers in Europe should have their pensions regularly adjusted to improvements in welfare resulting from increases in the cost of living and workers’ pay, to assure pensioners of an equivalent standard of living to workers ;
an uprating of the amounts of older pensions which were calculated at the time on a different basis from current methods of calculation ;
a minimum pension guaranteeing “adequate resources enabling them to lead a decent life and play an active part in public, social and cultural life”.
The ETUC Executive Committee also called special attention to the need to :
provide elderly persons with the guaranteed means “to choose their lifestyle freely and to lead an independent life in their familiar surroundings” by the provision of appropriate assistance (domestic help, meals, domiciliary care, heating) ;
guarantee elderly persons “living in institutions appropriate support, while respecting their privacy, and participation in decisions concerning living conditions in the institution”.
Instructs the Secretariat and Coordinating Committee on Retired Workers to :
ensure that pensioners who are members of affiliated confederations are also involved in supporting these demands, and the actions that the ETUC is framing to support the creation of a common European framework for social laws.
The role of retired workers in Europe is particularly important for the future of these demands.
The first organized action
In response to the call for organized action made by the ETUC Executive Committee of 9 and 10 February 1989, the ETUC staged a demonstration on 18 October 1989 in the Cinquantenaire Park in Brussels. The CCRW sent an impressively large contingent to mark its debut as a player in European activities.
Jack Jones, Vice President of the CCRW appointed by the TUC, addressed the rally, welcomed the birth of the CCRW, and argued for pensioners’ key demands.
The ETUC’s organized campaign supported by the CCRW resulted in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of Workers of December 1989 adopted by 11 Member States under the presidency of François MITTERRAND (rejected by Britain under Mrs Thatcher). It provided the basis for the ETUC and FERPA’s campaigns which led two years later to the passing of two Recommendations of the Council of Ministers which are still relevant today (minimum resources and convergence of social protection policies).
An integral part of the ETUC
The ETUC’s Report on Activities from 1988 to 1990 says that “a large amount of the Committee’s work has been devoted to the objective of gaining an interlocutory status for the CCRW in its dealings with the European institutions”.
A conference on retired workers organized by the ETUC on 17 and 18 December 1990 was chaired by the CCRW. It reviewed the past two years’ work and laid down guidelines on the role to be played in future by retired workers.
The position of the CCRW within the ETUC was to become an abiding concern. At the conference, the then ETUC General Secretary Mathias Hinterscheid put the question : "What is the best structure through which to organize that cooperation between employed and retired workers ? Our opinion, naturally, is that it must be done within the trade union movement. Put in more practical terms : how can we achieve that within the ETUC ? The opinions of our member organizations on this question are divided. You are more an extension of the Confederation which, by its nature, is at once multi industry, multi trade and multi category. But these purely organizational problems must neither impede nor divert our attention from the essential cooperation between active and retired workers. The problem is both a complex, major and pressing one”.
Perceiving a need to take matters forward pending the conclusions of the Working Group "For a More Efficient ETUC", and after sounding out various organizations, Georges Debunne put forward to the President and Vice Presidents’ meeting of 10 September 1990 a transitional solution to move matters along and increase the CCRW’s influence with the European authorities.
With certain organizations, including the three Italian unions, having agreed to volunteer funds to make up an annual budget, payments were made by various organizations to enable the CCRW to embark on its own programme, although still naturally remaining dependent on the ETUC’s assistance.
The President encountered stiff opposition to giving the CCRW direct, voting representation within the Working Group "For a More Efficient ETUC" set up ahead of the May 1991 Congress.
A CCRW working group set up to monitor and influence the positions taken by the Working Group “For a More Efficient ETUC” held a series of meetings.
ETUC 1991 Congress unwilling to give constitutional recognition
While the proposals tabled at the ETUC Congress of May 1991 were not satisfactory to the CCRW, they did at least leave ajar doors which are now gradually opening further.
A head on clash at the ETUC Congress seemed undesirable and was averted notwithstanding the intervention of the Presidents of the CGIL, Rastrelli, and CISL, Chiappella. The CCRW’s President delivered a speech to the ETUC’s Luxembourg Congress pointing out the need for an independent organization for retired workers within the ETUC.
Selected extracts from that speech :
“Retired workers are a significant body of men and women who merit special attention. They are a not inconsiderable component of a more efficiently organized ETUC
Retired workers represent a genuine power in the fight for a European social dimension based on social justice and greater equality.
The average proportion of over 60s in the total population of the EEC is now 20% (or 60 million people) and will rise to 28.5% by the year 2025. All other things being equal, it must be concluded that the year 2020 will find us with one pensioner for every two employed workers, compared to the one pensioner for three employed workers at the present.
This demographic development raises the problem of relations between different generations, which entails that of coherence and living together as members of society.
The welfare state is beset and pilloried by an unbridled free-market philosophy which springs from individualism and elitism.
The philosophy of selfishness must not be allowed to win out over solidarity, which is the foundation of balanced life in society”.
“In this crucial combat of today and tomorrow, the ETUC needs a powerful organization of today’s and tomorrow’s retired workers. Every effort must be made to see that it does”.
“Social security is, for all members of the working and non working population, a central democratic pillar of our way of life, founded in solidarity, social justice and greater fairness.
Pensions and health care account for around two thirds of social security payments. They are valuable established gains won over the years.
But there is always the danger of unbridled competition forcing labour costs down.
We must, therefore, be watchful that convergence takes place while maintaining the improvements made”.
“It may be a salutary reminder at this Congress where retired workers are making their voice heard for the first time, to observe that population ageing is an inescapable fact of future life, and that protecting all the interests of the elderly is a vast undertaking which requires unremitting representations to the European institutions.
The trade union movement must get organized accordingly”.
Proposals for reforming the CCRW were distributed to all delegates at the CCRW meeting of 18 and 19 November 1991. With slight amendments, these were approved and put forward to the Executive Committee of the ETUC.
Renaming the CCRW
It is essential to change the name of the CCRW in the initial phase of reform.
In order to have a genuine impact on both public and political opinion and to cope with other independent organizations, the name proposed is ‘European Federation of Retired and Elderly Persons’ (FERPA).
A series of observations were made :
The EC has appointed 1993 the "European Year of the Elderly and of Solidarity between Generations".
The European Parliament has repeatedly observed that “The People’s Europe is inconceivable other than in a spirit of solidarity and genuine sharing between generations”.
An initial report on "social and economic policies and the elderly" was presented by DGV to a major conference on 17 and 18 September 1991 (attended by several hundred participants and countless organizations).
The Commission has recently decided to set up a Liaison Group comprised of four European organizations (5 delegates from each organization), namely : EUROLINK AGE, EURAG, FIAPA (International Federation of Associations for the Elderly), and the CCRW. All are autonomous non-governmental organizations.
“The ageing of the population is a major challenge to the cohesiveness of society in the Member States and to the Community and Council of Europe as a whole. How can the fast changing age structure of populations be managed while maintaining sufficiently high levels of solidarity between the generations in the individual countries, and within the Community and Council of Europe ? It must be a solidarity which will both ensure the continued social integration of the elderly while avoiding conflict between the generations”.
“Life expectancy has risen significantly. The demand for care will also rise along with the size of the "dependent" population”.
FERPA born in Amsterdam
The ETUC Executive Committee meeting on 5 and 6 December 1991 in Amsterdam endorsed the name-change. FERPA was born !
The ETUC Executive Committee also considered what might be called a preliminary outline constitution for FERPA laying down the broad principles of representation, membership, organization and functioning, governing bodies and financing.
Lack of time led to the item being put back to the agenda of ETUC’s Geneva Executive Committee of 11 and 12 June 1992.
Certain extracts of this document merit consideration :
“The FERPA is the European trade union organization which represents retired workers and elderly people vis a vis all European institutions (Commission, Council of Europe, EFTA, European Parliament, Economic and Social Committee).
It forms part of the ETUC and coordinates its policy in conjunction with the latter in the context of the social dialogue, notably social security and, more particularly on pensions and health care, in order to avoid conflict between generations and between active and retired workers.
The organization must be represented within the ETUC
Membership of the European Federation of Retired and Elderly Persons is open to all multi sector or industry retired workers’ organizations which are part of a national trade union member of the ETUC”.
FERPA was recognized as an organization by the ETUC’s Geneva Executive Committee in 1992. The Executive Committee meets twice a year to lay down the positions to be argued for.
The following press release was issued after the Conference of 17 and 18 December 1990 :
“Elderly people are not to be treated as an isolated, debased group with no political, economic, social or cultural relevance to the rest of society", was the essential conclusion of the hundred odd participants in the Conference of Retired Workers organized by the ETUC on 17 and 18 December in Brussels.
A series of speakers stressed that the essential aim of social security systems and policy on retired persons should be to create solidarity between individuals and generations.
The statutory scheme must remain the fundamental pillar of protection. Attempts to privatize and individualize social security create increasingly glaring inequalities and marginalise those on low incomes, especially retired people. If economic and demographic changes have created the conditions where the systems of financing social security are no longer adequate, then changes must be made to financing which do not throw provision into question.
Along with political and economic democracy, social security is for the ETUC an integral part of the ‘European social model’”.
The Conference of 23 and 24 June 1992
This Conference, held in Brussels, was attended by some 200 delegates and a number of prominent personalities, not least the Belgian Minister for Pensions.
A brochure drafted by the President “Pensions : Meeting the Challenge” was a central focus of discussion, alongside the two draft Recommendations of the EEC Council of Ministers concerning minimum resources, convergence of social protection policies and the Year of the Elderly.
It was concluded that :
“The present generation of pensioners and elderly persons have lived through the horrors of war and dictatorship, misery, long working days and few holidays. This is the generation which laboured to build the European Community.
Peace in Europe was the priority ; using every effort to avoid war between nations responsible for two world wars ; creating a union of peoples and eradicating inflamed nationalist excesses.
Restoring and establishing political parliamentary democracy everywhere was a no less fundamental objective.
Improved living and working conditions through harmonization while maintaining the improvements made through greater economic, social and cultural democracy, notably through by establishing a system of social protection based on solidarity and combatting social exclusion was the third aim pursued by workers.
It cannot be denied that the European blueprint has contributed much to achieving these objectives. But the struggle must go on”.
On the Recommendations, the following letter was written and sent by the President to the President of the Council of Labour and Social Affairs Ministers (Luxembourg) :
“The FERPA conference
Regrets that the draft Recommendations concerning the convergence of social protection policies, minimum resources and 1993 as the Year of the Elderly submitted to the Council of Ministers fall short of what was initially proposed and take no account of the European Parliament’s amendments.
Desires, nevertheless, as the only European organization directly representing pensioners and elderly persons, that the Council of Ministers should take fitting decisions on the matter and hopes that the United Kingdom will also adopt the agreement”.
The ETUC’s Report on Activities 1991 1994 says :
“Mindful of the growing importance of the pensioners as social group and the need to strengthen their specific European trade union voice, the Executive Committee decided to transform the Coordinating Committee in existence since 1988 into the European Federation of Retired and Elderly Persons.
FERPA was founded at a Congress in Madrid in 1993 and is today an umbrella organization for thirty organizations in seventeen countries, with six million contributing members. Its actual reach is far greater, however, in that other structures not yet affiliated to it also take part in its activities. FERPA was influential in bringing the Council of Ministers’ two Recommendations on sufficient resources and the convergence of social protection objectives onto the statute book, as well as other European Parliament and Economic and Social Committee initiatives.
FERPA’s FOUNDING CONGRESS (1993)
Was held in Madrid on 29-30 April 1993 and lived up to all expectations. The fact that it ran so smoothly is a tribute to the organization of our Spanish colleagues, and especially José Herrerias.
The Constitution was adopted and the policy bodies were elected by conferees delighted to have been in on the birth of a much-needed, major European trade union with immense potential. A brochure was published commemorating the event.
FERPA launched itself on European public opinion in the following terms :
“An alliance of national democratic trade unions at European level in the 1950s eventually resulted in the establishment of the pluralist European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) in 1973.
Today’s generation of retired trade unionists wanted to build Europe to preserve an organized peace between us and throughout the world, to restore and guarantee political, economic, social and cultural democracy, to establish social protection without social exclusion.
The ETUC took their message on board and established the European Federation of Retired and Elderly Persons (FERPA), an umbrella group of all the trade and craft unions and professional associations affiliated to the ETUC in every country within the European Community and some Council of Europe states.
FERPA has a similar structure to that of the ETUC, and represents approximately eight million members (contributing members).
FERPA is an autonomous organization, which coordinates its policy with that of the ETUC, especially on social security and protection, in particular as regards pensions, health care and the granting of minimum resources to elderly persons based on solidarity between generations of employed workers and pensioners.
FERPA’s Founding Congress adopted its programme of priority demands on the fundamental rights of Retired and Elderly Persons (annexed).
Congress also passed a general resolution focussed on the following policy guidelines :
A peaceful Europe
Today’s generation of retired and elderly people went forth to build the European Community, to secure peace by eradicating national extremism ; to establish parliamentary political democracy everywhere ; to create a "cradle to grave" system of social protection based on solidarity.
Solidarity between generations
FERPA, established in full agreement with the ETUC to protect the interests of today’s and tomorrow’s retired workers and elderly persons, will use every effort to ensure solidarity between generations.
Protecting established social gains
FERPA presses for the early application of the Charter and the Social Protocol annexed to the Maastricht Treaty, and its ratification by the United Kingdom to avoid social dumping detrimental to all Europe’s retired workers and social welfare beneficiaries.
Longer life expectancy
Some see increased life expectancy only in terms of budgetary and financial problems, and press for a three pillar pension system to individualize and privatize pensions and health care.
FERPA, by contrast, sees increasing life spans as a triumph of trade unionism achieved through improved living and working conditions, and cannot condone the trend of policies which lead to social exclusion.
“Maintain the basic role of statutory pension schemes”, proclaimed the Council of Ministers Recommendation of 27 July 1992 on the convergence of social protection objectives and policies.
FERPA believes that statutory schemes and mandatory schemes deriving from collective agreements applicable to all workers based on a pay as you go system and solidarity between generations are key established gains which must be guaranteed and protected to preclude individualization and privatization.
FERPA believes that public pension schemes are essential components of social protection and will oppose all attempts to privatize or cut them.
The health care system
“Ensure for all persons legally resident within the territory of the Member State access to necessary health care ; maintain and, where necessary, develop a high quality health care system geared to the evolving needs of the population, and especially those arising from dependence of the elderly”, says the Council Recommendation of 27 July 1992. FERPA holds the right to quality health care for all, including the dependent elderly, to be a social and democratic obligation on all European Union and Council of Europe governments.
The Year of the Elderly and of Solidarity Between Generations
The European Community designated 1993 the Year of the Elderly and of Solidarity Between Generations.
FERPA played a key role during this European Year by raising the public profile of and arguing for the programme of demands backed by the Madrid Congress on the eve of 1 May.
Retired workers’ unions also took part in this day of celebration and struggle. FERPA’s banners were seen in the marches for the first time.
At its plenary session of 24 and 25 November 1993, the Economic and Social Committee adopted an opinion which takes up virtually the entire programme of demands adopted by the Madrid Congress due to the ETUC’s having nominated the President of FERPA as an expert in working out the opinion and the support given to him in the task by the worker members of the Economic and Social Committee.
The Socialist Group of the European Parliament’s initiative to call a European Parliament of Seniors in 1992, where the only background document for the discussions was that written by FERPA “Pensions : Meeting the challenge” was a success and paved the way for a European Parliament of Seniors, called by the EP on 24 and 25 November.
Commissioner Flynn’s Green Paper canvassed a wide range of responses to the different questions put with a view to drawing up a White Paper.
FERPA delivered a weighty reply.
The retired trade unionists who are members of FERPA and had a proactive influence in the setting up of the European Coal and Steel Community which ultimately became the European Union, recalled their priorities, namely :
preserve and establish peace in Europe and worldwide if possible ;
restore and guarantee political, economic, social and cultural democracy in all the Member States ;
guaranteed social protection without social exclusion ;
steady improvements in the quality of working and non-working life.
The Green Paper raised the fundamental concern, “What model of European society do we want ?”
FERPA’s reply was simple : a society of “security” as opposed to insecurity and “social security” based on solidarity rather than insecurity and social exclusion.
Security is achieved by the united efforts of all to assure the rights of each.
Solidarity embraces a concept of fellowship - do as you would be done by, and do not do unto others as you would not have done unto you.
Free market-style individualism undermines solidarity. Promoting the virtues of self-reliance ultimately leads to cuts in resources to the detriment of those deemed to be “spongers”.
Social injustice is spreading in tangible form through the widening inequality gap which has become an increasingly permanent feature of European society.
FERPA stands for convergence of social policies while maintaining the improvements made.
Combatting social exclusion.
Integration of excluded groups.
Political will or hypocrisy.
The next stage in the development of European social policy must not be based on rolling back social progress to restore economic competitiveness. The implementation of the two Recommendations by the Twelve, but by the Eleven if needs be, is essential to avoid the downward spiral of poverty.
Making FERPA an integral part of the ETUC
In a letter sent to the ETUC Secretariat on 19 August 1994, the President of FERPA requested that FERPA be granted (then) industry committee status on the grounds that FERPA fulfilled all the requirements set in article 4 of the ETUC Constitution.
At the meeting held on 13 October, the Steering Committee thought it necessary to undertake a more in depth examination of the matter before submitting it to the Executive Committee for a decision. The Secretariat had the following observations to make :
since it was founded in 1993, the FERPA as an organisation has experienced remarkable growth and efficiently represented the interests of pensioners vis a vis the European institutions. As a result it has prevented other pensioners’ organisations which have no links with the trade union movement from dominating the field ;
consequently, the FERPA represents added value for the ETUC, in so far as it represents a social group of continually growing importance. It is in the interests of the ETUC for the FERPA to develop further and gain greater visibility. At the same time, the Statutes of the FERPA guarantee that it will remain firmly anchored within the ETUC.
Having said that, it must be acknowledged that the FERPA cannot be fully identified with an Industry Committee in the traditional sense of the term. Rather, it could be more correctly defined as a structure that is comparable to an Industry Committee.
The Steering Committee meeting on 17 December 1994 discussed the FERPA’s representations and, while considering the FERPA’s activities of the utmost importance to the ETUC, proposes that having regard to the widely differing organizational arrangements for retired workers in the different countries and the singular character of the FERPA itself, the Executive Committee take no action on the FERPA’s request for the time being.
Notwithstanding representations in FERPA’s favour, the Executive Committee went with the Steering Committee’s proposal.
Overall, the member organizations have fulfilled their commitments given at the Madrid Congress. Contributions have been paid in accordance with the decisions taken.
The membership of the DGB is a continuing problem. An accommodation seemed to have been reached with IG Metall in agreement with the DGB, but has so far remained a dead letter. Further contacts will be made to clarify the situation and reach a solution.
The TUC, through the good offices of Vice President Jack Jones, is making organizational efforts to boost the continuing low levels of membership among retired workers’ craft unions.
Membership of the Nordic organizations (Sweden, Norway, Finland) is still not settled.
FERPA : acting at European level
National affiliates naturally act at their national level.
Action, approaches and representations at European level to institutions like the Commission, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee, the Council of Europe, the Council of European Social Affairs Ministers, and the Council of OECD Social Affairs Ministers are carried out under the FERPA banner.
Pensions first. Following a survey of all FERPA’s member organizations and research conducted amongst institutions, a brochure written by the President and entitled "Pensions : Meeting the Challenge" was published to widespread acclaim. It was also used as a primary working document by the European Parliament of Seniors organized by the Socialist Group in the European Parliament.
The detailed analysis of pensions schemes produced a series of findings :
the concept of the three pillars in the context of retirement pensions implies a falling level of solidarity and, automatically, a rising level of personal provision ;
this division of retirement pensions is part of the dismantling of acquired social rights and will lead to privatization ;
the second and third pillars are not neutral for the State. The tax concessions granted are often large and borne by everybody for the benefit of part of the population ;
any attack on the basic schemes leads to more supplementary and individual schemes. Less solidarity equals more social injustice.
The published findings of the trade union surveys conducted by FERPA related to : the minimum pension, conditions of eligibility for the minimum pension, indexing of pensions for inflation (cost of living, price index), adjustment of pensions to wage levels (standard of living, general prosperity), calculation of the pension, calculation of the widow’s pension, cumulation, statutory retirement age, early retirement, deferred retirement, phased retirement, and authorized work.
The 1989 Community Charter of Fundamental Social Rights of Workers is a key achievement of importance to the elderly in several respects, especially through point 10 and points :
24 : “every worker of the European Community must, at the time of retirement, be able to enjoy resources affording him or her a decent standard of living” ;
25 : “any person who has reached retirement age but who is not entitled to a pension or who does not have other means of subsistence, must be entitled to sufficient resources and to medical and social assistance specifically suited to his or her needs”.
The action programme accompanying the Charter provided for the following initiatives :
the draft Council Recommendation on common criteria concerning sufficient resources and social assistance in the social protection systems, of 3 May 1991 ;
the proposal for a Council Recommendation on convergence of social protection objectives and policies, of 27 June 1991.
the Communication from the Commission to the Council on supplementary social security schemes : the role of occupational pension schemes in the social protection of workers and their implications for freedom of movement, of 22 July 1991.
The Council Decision of 26 November 1990 on Community actions for the elderly designating 1993 as the "European Year of the Elderly and of Solidarity between Generations". The Community programme for the elderly introduces three basic structures, namely :
an advisory Committee consisting of two government representatives from each Member State ;
a “monitoring centre” of twelve scientific experts ;
a liaison group consisting of non governmental organizations, of which the European Trade Union Confederation’s European Federation of Retired and Elderly Persons is a member.
FERPA kept close tabs every step of the way on the discussions on the two particularly crucial Recommendations concerning sufficient resources and social assistance, and the convergence of social protection, adopted by the Council of Ministers on 24 June 1992 and 27 July 1992, respectively.
In the light of these two important Recommendations, FERPA laid down its positions on :
the minimum pension ;
minimum resources, and
inflation linked adjustments pegged to the cost of living and wages.
Health care Access to good quality health care must be continually attuned :
to the need to step up preventive measures ;
to developments in diseases and treatments ;
to those types of care necessitated by the dependency of the elderly and the priority need for organized domiciliary care and services to enable the elderly to remain in their familiar domestic surroundings.
Georges Debunne made a general study of health care problems generally and at European level.
His findings have been published in a brochure.
A Charter for retired and elderly persons
The Committee discussed, amended and finalized a document which was published for FERPA’s 1993 Congress.
The right to participate
"Having one’s say" is an essential tenet of democracy.
An appropriate structure in which democratically representative European organizations are represented is a prerequisite for working out a Community policy on retired and elderly people.
The Liaison Group set up under the auspices of the Commission does not fulfill these requirements. A suitable structure must be set up which takes account of that fact that the vast majority of elderly persons are pensioners and that FERPA represents European trade union organizations as an expression of solidarity between employed workers and pensioned workers.
If the elderly are to remain an integral part of society, neither excluded, discriminated against nor ghettoised, they must have the opportunity to participate, through democratically appointed representatives, in collectively taken decisions by policy and decision making bodies at all levels European, national, regional and local.
2nd FERPA Congress 1995
The 2nd FERPA Congress held in Brussels on 6 7 May 1995 ahead of the ETUC Congress held in June 1995 consolidated the organization and laid down its action programme.
On the occasion of its Congress, FERPA issued a written call to all Heads of State and Government to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of war in Europe (8 May 1945) by ringing church bells and sounding sirens at noon throughout Belgium and Europe. A half-hour “down tools” from 12.00 to 12.30 was supported in a show of union solidarity by the European Commission and staff in EC departments across Brussels.
Nine (9) new organizations have joined FERPA :
1) Pensionistes Verband (Austria) 2) DAG (Germany) 3) MSZOSZ (Hungary) 4) Solidarnosc (Poland) 5) Interreformados da CGTP IN (Portugal) 6) CNSLR "Fratia" (Romania) 7) Nordic Cooperative Committee (Scandinavia) 8) EMEKLI SEN (DISK) 9) CGT (France)
Some unions increased their memberships. The TUC, for example, consolidated national confederations and made a special contribution.
DGB remains a black spot, notwithstanding the change to its Constitution.
A Women’s Committee was set up, chaired by Aitanga Giraldi.
The Rome Conference of 1 and 2 March 1996 gave a necessary stimulus. A Steering Committee was set up and the Chair of the Women’s Committee was invited to sit on the FERPA Steering Committee.
The conference "A Europe fit for our grandchildren" was followed by a key Women’s Committee which pointed the way for follow up action.
News in Brief
The decision to publish the "News in Brief" newsletter can be seen as a major contribution to the policy pursued by FERPA. "News in Brief" is also sent to MEPs on the EP’s Social Affairs Committee.
Since the 1st issue on 18 March 1996, 17 issues have been published at an average rate of 6 issues a year.
Pensioners’ and older people’s incomes
FERPA has worked unremittingly to push this priority demand forward, seizing every Commission and European Parliament debate and symposium, and every other opportunity to put its arguments across. Taking its stand on the June 1992 Recommendation on sufficient resources which came out of the Strasbourg Declaration of December 1989, FERPA has argued the need to put figures on the minimum pension and income amounts.
FERPA returned to the offensive in late 1997 with the war cry "Enough talking ! There must be a policy decision now !".
The ETUC now backs FERPA’s line. Our proposals for a percentage of national per capita GDP are being argued towards all governments and were backed up by Europe wide action on 15 April 1999.
The two spirals of a small minority getting richer while a growing number (a third of the population) are inexorably plunged into poverty must be halted.
Revising the Maastricht Treaty for a result in Amsterdam
“As the European Union approaches the deadline for Monetary Union and the Intergovernmental Conference is in the throes of revising the Maastricht Treaty, FERPA argues and urges that pensioners and elderly persons must be brought under European jurisdiction”.
FERPA wrote directly to the Head of State of the French Republic and the Prime Ministers of the European Union
“Those who fought then and now for the European ideal find it anathema that some governments should wish to keep policy on the elderly firmly in the national sphere.
The Dublin Summit of 13 and 14 December 1996 shows what scant regard the European Council has for social policy, all but dropping it for a subsidiarity which encourages social dumping and deteriorating social protection when article 117 of the Treaty of Rome itself provides that : “Member States agree upon the need to promote improved working conditions and an improved standard of living for workers, so as to make possible their harmonisation while the improvement is being maintained”.
The challenges of the Intergovernmental Conference
leading on to the Amsterdam Treaty were discussed at a Conference held in Paris on 25 26 27 April 1997.
Speakers included Marc Blondel (General Secretary of CGT FO), Jean Troglic (Secretary, International Department, CFDT), Raymonde Dury (co rapporteur, European Parliament) and Béatrice Hertogs (Confederal Secretary, ETUC).
Reports on the Citizens’ Charter and the Forum of Civil Society’s Rome Declaration were followed by discussions.
The guidelines mapped out at the Paris Conference formed the basis of the verdict given by the Executive Committee of 8 and 9 September 1997 on the Amsterdam Summit. “The Amsterdam Summit does not measure up to the challenges of democracy. The draft Amsterdam Treaty significantly fails to address the fundamental conclusions drawn in Paris on 26 and 27 April 1997 by the FERPA”.
“Despite the urgency of the situation, monetary, economic, employment and social policies have not been put on an equal footing”.
“The ban on ageism included in the Treaty after lobbying by the FERPA is undeniably positive ; less so, alas, is the fact that it is still subject to unanimity !”
“It is to be regretted that Chancellor Köhl managed to secure last minute changes, overturning some qualified majority voting in favour of unanimity, especially on policies regarding older people”.
“The European Parliament absolutely must shoulder its responsibilities and demand that the foregoing fundamental democratic institutional rights are implemented without further ado”.
Social Protection : Two Communications
The Future of Social Protection COM (95) 466
The Executive Committee of 9 and 10 September 1996 set out FERPA’s position on this Communication with a summary statement of the key principles to be upheld. For reference, it reached 3 conclusions, and offered 3 avenues for exploration :
1. Social protection is regarded as a major achievement of the European model of society, which has successfully withstood 50 years of intense economic and social change.
2. The fifteen Union States have mechanisms which pay :
replacement incomes to workers (pension and survivor’s, incapacity for work, accident, invalidity, occupational disease, sickness, maternity)
which cover at least some of the costs of age and school related health and child care.
3. Social protection is undeniably a cardinal instrument of solidarity between workers and citizens of the European Union Member States to maintain social cohesion by a degree of social justice, which is the basic minimum requirement in a democratic society.
4. The monetary criteria laid down by the Maastricht Treaty for achieving monetary union must not be used as an excuse for dismantling social protection systems. 5. A convergence strategy which sets common objectives for the same challenges is essential to fend off the attacks of the "philosophy" of selfishness, one aim of which is to privatize the existing, essentially solidarity based systems of social protection usually managed wholly or in part by the unions and employers.
6. The Fundamental social and employment rights of workers (pensions, unemployment benefit,...) must not be lumped together with universal human rights. The main job of trade unions is to defend the former.
FERPA lays insistence on the two Recommendations of June 1992 and July 1992 on minimum resources and convergence of social protection policies and objectives.
Modernizing and improving social protection in the European Union
States must not be obliged by the Stability Pact that will be part of EMU to consolidate their public finances through the reduction of social spending, more specifically spending on social protection.
Consolidation, modernization and improvement imply respect for principles founded on solidarity and guaranteed access to the right to social protection, without which insecurity in the workplace will lead to chaos.
Employment, i.e., full employment, guarantees the viability of social protection systems. Every means must be deployed to attain this objective.
The reduction of indirect wage costs (which constitute a part of direct wages) must therefore be matched with job creating measures. Alternative financing must compensate for any reduction in revenue (taxation systems can only be made more employment friendly by compensation through levies on capital, profits and unearned income).
Activation of employment policies must not be used as a pretext for challenging the right to an income through unemployment insurance or reducing unemployment benefits.
The argument that high unemployment is a result of so called “lavish” unemployment benefits is an insult to the unemployed.
The "workfare" destined to replace "welfare" must not lead to the trap of forced labour by poorly paid workers, which would depress the pay of the majority of workers.
The European Social Policy Forum
During the Forum, FERPA distributed a document from the ETUC stand containing :
the text "Seniors and FERPA" the Resolution passed at FERPA’s Brussels Congress, 6 7 May 1995 FERPA’s proposed European Seniors’ Charter the list and addresses of the confederations affiliated to FERPA.
During the Open Forum, FERPA took a stand with a 45 minute talk on the right to minimum resources, pensions and wages, and the right to a minimum cultural life, and contributed to the general discussions.
An inventory of pensions reform drawn up by DGV MISSOC 1996 was covered in a special issue of News in Brief : No. 10.
A comprehensive survey in table form of the current situation in every country was handed out to participants in FERPA’s 3rd Congress in May 1999.
The Green Paper on Supplementary Pensions
Currently, the 1st pillar (state pensions) accounts for 88.8% of all pension payouts, whereas employment related pension schemes (2nd pillar) account for only 7% of payouts. The 3rd pillar ( individual pension plans) accounts for 0.9% of total payouts, and guaranteed income schemes 3.3%.
The Green Paper finds that advance funded supplementary schemes are by no means a panacea for difficulties, and explored how the Single Market (free movement of capital) can enable funded supplementary schemes to operate more efficiently.
It concluded that the prudential rules, applied by Member States are an impediment to freedom of capital flows in the single market.
Proposals to further facilitate the free movement of capital are ready, but give rise to serious misgivings. They will be discussed in the European Parliament.
Poverty in the European Parliament
To mark the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, EAPN (European Anti Poverty Network) hosted an event on 17 October 1996 under the aegis of Mr Stephen Hughes, Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Social Affairs, attended by the Irish Minister and a representative of European Commission President Santer’s cabinet.
The FERPA gave input to the debates, calling attention to the June 1992 Recommendation on minimum resources and voicing its commitment to getting a cash minimum set in line with the Recommendation’s requirements. Its position received widespread support from the participants.
European Parliament Seniors’ Conference (1 and 2 October 1998)
A report written by two MEP rapporteurs Hugh McMahon (PSE) and Edgar Sciedenneider (EPP) was tabled for discussion at a moot Parliament of 80 MPs representing the elderly population of different countries and various political parties in Parliament. It marked a distinct step back from the European Parliament of Seniors in 1993.
Various FERPA delegates were active in the four working groups which addressed : • the labour market integration of older workers • preserving the role of elderly persons in society • a better quality of life for elderly persons • guaranteed dignity and freedom from discrimination
The two rapporteurs’ report was discussed by the Employment and Social Affairs Committee. Amendments were tabled by MEPs friendly to FERPA.
After debate and amendment in committee, the report was lodged on 29 March 1999 for submission to the May plenary session Parliament’s last meeting before the elections on 13 June 1999. It is positive overall, but wanting in some key respects.
What forms of solidarity for the next millennium ?
The FERPA staged a Conference entitled “What forms of solidarity for the next millennium ?” on 24 and 25 October 1998. The meeting supported by the European Commission’s "Social Economy" Unit (DG XXIII) was the culmination of a wide ranging debate in all affiliated countries (plus Hungary, Romania and Turkey) on European policies on the social economy, sources of new jobs and voluntary provision.
This is a key issue for pensioners on two counts, because 33% of the 23 million households rated as poor by EUROSTAT are pensioner households, 20% of young people under 25 are out of work, and 20% of children under 16 live in poor homes.
To prepare this conference, pensioners and elderly persons’ unions studied two types of situation they are faced with in the fifteen EU countries.
New service jobs are needed to spare dependent elderly persons the trauma of being taken into care and enable them to choose their own lifestyle, living independent lives at home for as long as they wish by providing job creating domiciliary services. But FERPA also pointed out that the new services could go awry if they are neither organized nor regulated by the public authorities.
The benefits for youth employment of part time early retirement from a certain age and the replacement of two half time pensioners by a full time young worker. FERPA backs this system of solidarity between the generations.
FERPA’s members hold that social protection systems are a "social property" of which the State is guarantor, and that neither the State nor the Union can sell that social property off cheap to the first bidder.
FERPA’s positions can briefly be summarised in five points :
1. The social economy must be supported on the basis of an enterprise approach associated with the four pillars of solidarity (end purpose of community service, autonomy of management, democratic decision making process, the individual and labour predominant over capital in income distribution). 2. Local services are a potential source of as yet undefined jobs which must be under proper employment contracts. 3. If not properly regulated, local services could abuse voluntary provision to the detriment of paid jobs. 4. The welfare state must be preserved or rebuilt to modernise social protection systems. * “Collective” and “community” solidarity based systems are underpinned by the welfare state * The welfare state has a responsibility to repudiate social dumping and a duty to bring systems into line while maintaining the improvements made at European level. 5. In conclusion, FERPA believes that poverty must be eradicated. Minimum resources of at least 40% of the national average wage must be guaranteed without delay.
A Europe fit for our grandchildren
A hundred odd delegates including forty or so women from FERPA’s 28 national member organizations in 18 European countries came to Brussels on 28 and 29 November to consider and debate two major reports.
One looked at the past stages towards integrating social rights in the Treaties. It was a six-stage descriptive analysis by Marie Paule Connan of the past and present of the European Union :
The Treaty of Paris (ECSC) 1951 to guarantee peace ; The Treaty of Rome (1957) to establish a Common Market ; The Single Act (1986) to complete the Common Market ; The Maastricht Treaty (1992) to establish the single currency ; The Amsterdam Treaty (1997) to introduce enlargement ; The post Amsterdam period : unfinished business.
This key document for understanding the past excited considerable interest not just within FERPA, but in other quarters, too. The other mapped out a blueprint for remedying the democratic and social deficits, and the fundamental rights of citizens and workers which must be written into the future Treaty before the next enlargement.
For a politically democratic European Union
The European Parliament elected by the people must have general powers of co decision.
The European Council must operate democratically. Decisions must be taken by a dual majority (8 countries out of 15 representing over half the EU’s population).
The Council of Ministers must decide by qualified majority
The European Commission must be representative, independent, accountable to the European Parliament.
There must be political scrutiny of the European Central Bank’s supranational and federal powers.
For a social Union
Monetary and economic policies must be balanced by policies for employment and to preserve social protection.
Social and tax dumping practices must be outlawed.
Poverty and exclusion must be eradicated by the establishment at European level of minimum resources, a minimum pension and a minimum wage set as a percentage of national per capita GDP, and by a fairer share out of wealth.
Everyone must be guaranteed a roof over their head.
For the incorporation of fundamental rights in the Treaty
civic and political rights
A competition organized by FERPA on the theme “A Europe fit for our grandchildren” in the form of grandparents’ letters to their grandchildren was a resounding success.
Liaison Group on the Elderly
FERPA considers that the Liaison Group set up in 1993 has been completely sidelined in practice, notwithstanding Commissioner Flynn’s pledges to inform and consult the Group, and that any pretence at a European policy in favour of elderly persons has been jettisoned.
FERPA objected to Commissioner Flynn’s strongarm tactics at the 8 March meeting in deciding to include the organization known as ESCU, which presented itself to the meeting as a European People’s Party organization despite being rejected at previous Liaison Group meetings. FERPA rejected Commissioner Flynn’s proposal to set up a European platform for older people, initially described as a Forum, to mark the International Year of Older Persons "A society for all ages", the only ultimate point of which was to raise the Commissioner’s personal standing.
Having regard to the consistent failure to follow up the 1993 European Year of the Elderly, FERPA refused to lend its name to a face saving declaration or pseudo measure which gives older people the false impression that Europe intends framing a policy for them.
The string of policy positions taken by the Forum of Civil Society in the wake of FERPA’s Paris Conference have tended towards the Forum styling itself as a “broad church” movement sidelining all others to become the one key liaisee.
The President of FERPA reacted against this, and after discussions with the ETUC General Secretary issued a statement saying that these conditions made it impossible to continue taking part in the Forum’s activities, and that under no circumstances could the Forum speak on behalf of trade unions (ETUC and FERPA).
Incorporating fundamental rights in the future Treaty
FERPA decided on its platform of demands for the fundamental rights to be written into the Treaty during a consultation exercise and the preliminary discussions for the Conference on “A Europe fit for our grandchildren”.