Only one application, that of Michel Devacht, had been received as of 30 June, the deadline for submitting applications. He was elected unanimously, with two votes against.
Following his election, Michel Devacht chaired the work of the Executive Committee in accordance with the constitution.
Its members were elected unanimously. Its first meeting shall take place on Thursday 12 November 2015.
Constitution Working Group
The General Secretary reiterated that FERPA has a constitution and an Internal Regulation. This Working Group’s role is to evaluate them and update them where necessary while confirming, even reinforcing, FERPA’s trade union nature and fundamental values formulated in the Preamble.
At the General Secretary’s suggestion, the Working Group will be composed of one representative each from Spain, Croatia, Hungary, Italy and Austria, one representative from the Women’s Committee (Jeanine Martin) and one from the Financial Audit Committee (Michèle Jacotey).
Dick de Graaf (FNV, Netherlands) will be the Group’s coordinator.
The President and the General Secretary will also be ex officio members of the Working Group.
These suggestions were adopted unanimously by the Executive Committee.
The first meeting was planned to immediately follow that of the Steering Committee, i.e. 12 November from 1.15 p.m. to 3 p.m.
2) Discussion on Greece
Anna Baltzopoulos, from the Panhellenic Federation of Public Service Pensioners (POPS), outlined the situation within her federation, which represents 250,000 members, persons who have retired from Greek public service, and is divided into 58 associations that are united in the framework of a confederation of associations.
To mask the effects of the drop in pensions it had imposed, the Greek government had decided to unilaterally suspend the payment of the membership fees that these associations’ members pay to their confederation, thus depriving the organisation of its resources and therefore its capacity for action. The POPS representative specified that the membership fees were actually ‘voluntary’ and in no way a ‘tax’.
POPS asked FERPA for a support resolution before the vote on this decision, scheduled for the following week.
A discussion followed this contribution, during which the organisations demonstrated their support and solidarity. A number of organisations emphasised that this move from the Greek government was not an isolated action but that it was, in fact, part of a campaign that could be observed at European level to disparage trade unions and their action. They further stressed that this ‘political’ intervention violated the conventions of the International Labour Organisation, which guarantee the independence of trade union organisations and their capacity to act.
The following organisations contributed : UILP-UIL (Italy), FNV (Netherlands), CFDT (France), SUH (Croatia), SPSN (Serbia), CC.OO (Spain), FNP-CISL (Italy), NFP CNSLR “Fratia” (Romania), UNSA (France), F.O. (France), UGT (Spain), SZEF (Hungary), FGTB (Belgium), CGT (France), PESYS-SEK (Cyprus)
To conclude this discussion, the General Secretary emphasised the importance of FERPA’s reaction, to demonstrate :
its desire to not just accept anything ;
its determination to oppose any challenge to the action and existence of trade unions within the European Union.
She echoed the remarks recently made by the President at the previous ETUC Congress in Paris, where he reaffirmed his support for the action of European trade unions.
3) FERPA General Secretary’s work programme
The General Secretary gave a recap of the decisions made at the 7th FERPA Congress, which had to be implemented as part of a long and medium-term work programme. The aim was to determine new strategies that take into account the ETUC’s strategies and are based on :
an improved situation for retired persons in Europe ;
the defence of human rights ;
democracy, which represents all of our essential values.
This made clear FERPA’s intention to be part of a social Europe for everyone and a better Europe for everyone.
This programme shall consist of two stages :
The first shall run until the Interim Conference in September 2017
The second shall last until the following Congress.
The General Secretary’s work programme and introductory speech had been sent to the organisations in the various working languages (English, French and Italian).
However, in a nutshell, it consisted of two levels :
At organisational level
To get to know one another better, the General Secretary explained that we needed to be better organised, which means not just knowing names but learning about the Executive Committee members’ responsibilities in their own country and the behavioural and attendance rules in their own trade union organisation.
1) The request for information with the help of a table that is as specific and concise as possible.
2) The request for information on the payment of membership fees to FERPA and how it is paid.
3) The existence of current agreements with workers in active employment, especially at the moment of retirement.
4) FERPA’s commitment to bringing its site up-to-date, this being our ‘business card’. She stated that discussions were underway with Italians to find volunteers to work on the site.
The General Secretary also declared her wish to meet all FERPA member organisations. Up until this point, she had already visited three, and five other visits were already planned.
At the level of trade union policy
1) From this point until the following December, send a concise summary on the situation of retired persons regarding pensions, the organisation of and responsibility for healthcare, social welfare, particularly for persons with diminished autonomy, as well as a memo on any trade union agreements with the countries’ governments, if they existed or had been requested.
2) FERPA would have to improve its ‘profile’ in Brussels and its influence with both the European Parliament and the ETUC. When the General Secretary had attended the previous ETUC Social Protection Working Group meeting, she had reiterated the commitment to having an active and continuous presence within the ETUC, as well as at the ETUC’s Executive Committee meetings.
3) Foster exchange between countries, particularly through bilateral meetings.
4) Meet the social organisations that care for older persons, while preserving FERPA’s autonomy.
5) Relaunch the ECI.
6) Update the Charter for the Rights of older persons and consider creating a poster that would be readable in all countries.
7) Schedule a meeting with the ETUC Youth Committee.
8) Better support the Women’s Committee’s projects, both those that had already been adopted and the new ones.
9) Every year initiate a campaign on a specific topic related to retired persons, such as fuel poverty. At a later Steering Committee meeting, the General Secretary shall make some suggestions to be discussed at the Executive Committee meeting scheduled for 3 and 4 March 2016.
She said that it was important to change our habits and have greater belief in FERPA.
During the extensive debate (27 contributions) that followed this presentation, the organisations largely demonstrated their support for these suggestions, highlighting in particular their clarity and specificity. Nevertheless, it was stressed that it would be a good idea to rank and prioritise all these suggestions because nothing would be gained by undertaking them all without seeing any of them through to the end, even though they are all important. Several contributions also emphasised the need to overcome the divide between the employment period and retirement. Others also raised the point that FERPA comprised countries with different trade union circumstances and that some organisations were represented in their professional sectors, whereas in other countries retired persons were not allowed to have trade unions, which did not prevent them from bypassing this ban, as in Romania for example. The importance of information and communication was also underlined, using the example of the ETUC Congress where FERPA had a stand where visitors could learn of its existence ! The lack of resources available to FERPA was also mentioned, as was the associated need to optimise those it did have and to ask itself : what can we do for FERPA ? The topic of poverty was also picked as a priority, as was the issue of older persons’ solitude and frailty. They made the point that it was a question of dignity and of some people asking themselves : are older persons and their representation a burden or an asset for our societies ? Furthermore, it was important that FERPA made its voice heard and therefore continued to work towards further establishing itself as a recognised trade union within the ETUC, which includes obtaining the right to vote in ETUC bodies, a right that the Youth Committee already had. Finally, together with the ETUC, we needed to create a Europe that we like, a Europe of solidarity and dignity, while still being able to face reality, particularly considering the migration tragedy and the return to nationalism. The issue of services was also raised.
The following organisations contributed : Solidarność (Poland), FNV (Netherlands), SUH (Croatia), CC.OO (Spain), SZEF (Hungary), FNP-CISL (Italy), ICTU (Ireland), NFP CNSLR “Fratia” (Romania), UNSA (France), SPI-CGIL (Italy), UILP-UIL (Italy), CFTC (France), FGTB (Belgium), CSC (Belgium) OGB-L (Luxembourg), CFDT (France), SPSN (Serbia), CFE-CGC (France)
5) Contribution from Montserrat Mir Roca, ETUC Confederal Secretary
The ETUC Confederal Secretary, recently elected at the Paris Congress and whose responsibilities included social protection and relations with FERPA, began her contribution by introducing herself. She highlighted in particular that it was the first time a female Spanish trade unionist had chaired the ETUC General Secretariat. She reminded attendees that in her Workers’ Commissions trade union organisation, she had mainly been in charge of international relations but had also been responsible for the dossier for workers in precarious employment and for posted workers.
She stressed that the ETUC and FERPA shared many joint dossiers – such as active ageing or skills sharing – and that they therefore needed to work together. 25 November shall be the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women at home, at work or anywhere else.
A joint project shall be launched with FERPA. She noted that it would also be necessary to have a more comprehensive picture of social security and introduce more targeted initiatives for older persons, for example on their precarious situations or their risk of dependency, while also recognising that this would require a suitable budget. She acknowledged that FERPA needed to be more visible to the ETUC because everyone would end up becoming a member FERPA. She welcomed the fact that Carla had attended the ETUC Social Protection Working Group. Her aim was to align the ETUC’s and FERPA’s positions and she emphasised the fact that the ETUC and FERPA would be what their members made of them. Finally, she revealed her determination to work with FERPA and to meet its members.
This contribution was mainly greeted with approval from the Executive Committee and prompted two further reactions :
From the FNV (Netherlands) underlining how important and urgent it was to look into the issues of poverty.
From the two Belgian organisations (CSC and FGTB), who emphasised the urgent need to have a debate on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the effects of which could pose ‘a threat to our social organisation’, they believed. They presented a proposed motion on this topic to the Confederal Secretary.
Concluding the discussion that followed the presentation of her work programme, the General Secretary underlined the quality of the various contributions and thanked the contributors for participating in the discussion.
She reaffirmed that she would continue to work with Montserrat on topics affecting retired and older persons and that she would show diligence by getting involved in the ETUC’s work, including during the meetings of the Social Protection Working Group.
She asked Henri to write letters to send to the President of the European Commission and the ETUC General Secretary in support of the organisation of Greek retired persons and stated that she would soon travel to Greece and Cyprus.
She admitted that the work programme was an ambitious project but that it represented a minimum minimorum for her.
She asked the members of the Executive Committee to carefully fill out the information sheets sent by the FERPA Secretariat.
She emphasised the importance of communication, provided that information is supplied and updated. In view of this, she was to meet the ‘webmaster’ on 13 November to upload the necessary documents to the site.
She announced that :
the Steering Committee would meet on the morning of 12 November, specifically to reconfirm the commitments made in order to ensure the transition and discuss priorities ;
the FERPA Constitution Working Group would also meet on 12 November, following the Steering Committee meeting ;
the Financial Audit Committee would meet on 13 November ;
the Women’s Committee would meet after the Executive Committee meeting but only to elect its Chair ;
the Executive Committee would meet again on 2 and 3 March 2016.
6) State of affairs of the ECI
At the request of the General Secretary, Henri Lourdelle, FERPA adviser, reported on the status of FERPA’s European Citizens’ Initiative, with a PowerPoint presentation that was to be sent to Executive Committee members after being translated.
He recapped the various stages reached and marked, especially after FERPA’s ECI was rejected.
He updated the Executive Committee on the progress of the judicial appeal filed by FERPA and in particular of the hearing that was to take place on 28 October, at the Court of Luxembourg with lawyers from both the European Commission and FERPA. At the General Secretary’s suggestion, the Executive Committee gave its approval for Robert Racke, outgoing president and member of the ‘Citizens’ Committee’, to represent FERPA alongside the lawyer at this hearing.
Regarding the ECI itself, there had been a number of calls, notably from the European Parliament but also from within the Commission, to suggest a certain number of very specific amendments to be made to the regulation governing ECI implementation methods so that it would truly be an instrument of participatory democracy in the hands of European citizens.
However, it would take a lot of time for them to be adopted and implemented.
In the short discussion that followed this presentation, committee members renewed the agreement that had been reached in March 2014, which was to not wait for potential amendments before relaunching a new ECI, so that the mobilisation of activists did not wane, and that action was better than no action. They agreed that the ECI campaign could create a useful trade union dynamic in our members’ countries and help to boost FERPA’s profile. Nevertheless, they recognised the need to consider which methods to implement to relaunch the mobilisation.
Following this exchange, the General Secretary confirmed her desire to immediately relaunch the ECI.
The following organisations contributed : FNV (Netherlands), CFDT (France), FNP-CISL (Italy), CSC (Belgium), CC.OO (Spain), FGTB (Belgium), ÖGB (Austria), SZEF (Hungary), UNSA (France), CFE-CGC (France), CFTC (France), CGT (France), SPI-CGIL (Italy), UILP-UIL (Italy)
Before closing this Executive Committee meeting, the President gave the floor to the Solidarność representative to report on the situation in her country following the elections in which the Eurosceptic conservative Law and Justice party (PiS) had won an absolute majority. She believed that this was the consequence of the policy led by the outgoing liberal party, which had forgotten social interests. With this in mind, the new government’s promises had included returning to the measures adopted previously, notably those on the increase of the minimum pension age that had risen from 60-65 to 67, and on precarious contracts. She had decided to set up a council on social dialogue, naming the Solidarność trade union as Chair.
The Executive Committee meeting, as announced, was followed by a short FERPA Women’s Committee meeting, during which Ana Martínez López of CC.OO was elected as Chair.