On 28th January 2020, AK President Renate Anderl and ÖGB-President Wolfgang Katzian invited to the traditional New Year’s Reception hosted by AK EUROPA and the ÖGB Europabüro. Also this year, many guests accepted the invitation. Both Presidents addressed the public with a strong appeal for a social Europe: a policy, which prioritizes people, must once again move to the centre of attention.
Welcoming address by Ambassador Nikolaus Marschik
Austrian’s Ambassador to the EU and host Nikolaus Marschik opened the New Year’s Reception. He thanked the social partners AK and ÖGB and emphasised the good cooperation and the significance of the social partnership at national and European level. The New Year’s Reception was a lively start to the New Year and decade, which will give the work in Europe lots of momentum.
AK President Renate Anderl: Employment and social issues are core concerns
The President of the Austrian Federal Chamber of Labour, Renate Anderl, made it clear that a Europe of togetherness and cohesion had to be at the centre. She welcomed the announcements of the new EU Commission regarding its social policy intentions, in particular the idea that justice should form the basis of the European Pillar of Social Rights. However, just coming up with headlines is not enough. Anderl urged to acknowledge that concrete measures are needed to really improve people’s lives, in particular regarding the imminent transformation processes associated with the Green Deal and digitisation. Particularly close to her heart is gender equality, which is why she welcomed the announcement of binding regulations on pay transparency. Here too, the AK would keep a close eye on what would follow this announcement. To emphasise her point, Renate Anderl presented Employment Commissioner Schmit with a rucksack containing the AK’s concrete demands and ideas.
ÖGB President Wolfgang Katzian: Our aim is a good life for all workers
Wolfgang Katzian, ÖGB President, also focussed on the social question. It is the aim of trade union work to enable all workers to have a good life. It is important that the imminent changes due to digitisation and climate crisis will not be at the expense of the people. Here, the European level is of particular importance and thereby also the strengthening of the Social Pillar. For example, the EU Commission’s minimum wage initiative is a good thing, in particular also with regard to strengthening collective agreements. However, time and again there have been setbacks, such as the current ECJ ruling on “Henry am Zug“. The ECJ ruled that Hungarian employees on Austrian railways were not subject to Austrian collective agreements and Austrian labour law, even though they would mainly work in Austria. Katzian pointed out that social rights have to take priority and that quite some tasks are still awaiting the new Commission in this regard.
Employment Commissioner Nicolas Schmit: the economy must work for the people
The Luxembourg Commissioner Nicolas Schmit, responsible for Employment and Social Rights, confirmed that the Commission still had a lot to do. First and foremost, trust in Europe and confidence had to be restored. An important step in this direction was the intent of the new Commission von der Leyen: An economy that works for the people and a market economy with a strong social aspect. Many large projects are on the agenda for the next five years, from fighting child labour via minimum wage, good working conditions for platform work up to coping with the climate crisis. These are not only major challenges but also great opportunities. Hence, the new Commission not only approached the New Year with a lot of hope and energy but also wants to make an effort in seeking dialogue with the people in Europe. The Conference on the Future of Europe will also be part of this. Only by working together, it will be possible to realise the Project Europe.
ETUC General Secretary Luca Visentini: For a strong trade union in Europe
ETUC General Secretary, Luca Visentini, stressed the necessity of good cooperation and emphasised the important work of AK and ÖGB. The last EU elections had already shown that cohesion was working well, as the joint campaign by the trade unions for a social Europe had made an impact. One should not forget that the social aspect is key to democracy in Europe. Hence, he was pleased that the priorities of the new EU Commission and those of the Trade Union Congress on building a social Europe in spring 2019 coincide. It is now the joint responsibility to implement these priorities and to get all the EU states on board again. Together this will be possible and 2020 is going to be a pivotal year.
Together into an energetic year 2020
Almost 200 invited guests came to the Permanent Representation of Austria for the New Year’s Reception hosted by AK EUROPA and ÖGB Europabüro. Among them also numerous MEPs such as Evelyn Regner, Othmar Karas, Hannes Heide and Monika Vana.
The 14th New Year’s Reception was a lively start to the political Year 2020, which will be indicatory for the European Union’s next decade. We would like to thank all guests and friends for their participation and are looking forward to a successful cooperation!