Saturday, 10 March 2012

Older Workers in the European Economy

Chris Ball (TAEN) addresses the FECCIA
conference on the outcomes of his

I am just back from a critically important conference which focused on the one of the most pressing economic and social issue for governments, trade unions and employers, that of an ageing European workforce and the challenges that poses in the workplace and across the economy.

The conference was hosted by FECCIA in Prague 7-9 March. FECCIA is the European association of managers in the chemical industry, and was funded by the European Commisson as a partnership with ECEG, the European chemicals employers group and EMCEF, the European chemical and energy workers' union.

I attended the event with my colleague Judith Jackson (Head of Education at the GFTU) and we were there representing the GFTU's own project on the issue of the protection of the employment interests of older workers.

Details of the FECCIA project are here ( and information on the GFTU project I am managing are here ( and both take as their central focus how best to support the employment needs of older workers, particularly as they face the prospect of remaining in work past traditional retirement age.

Although the event explored what is understood as the big demographic issues posed, and Chris Ball of TAEN ( did an excellent of this - and of illustrating the issues specific to the chemicals industry - the event was more concerened to understand what specific action was needed.

The relatively new concept developed to explore this is couched in the terminology of age management and this particularly useful approach allows employers and trade unions to look at the central issue of job re-design, health and safety etc., as well as those allied issues of learning and personal fitness and health.

I was personally pleased to see both employers and trades unions come together to dispel the spurious notion that support for active ageing in the workplace is automatically to side with older workers against the interest of younger workers - a dangerous fallacy made worse during an era of austerity and high youth unemployment.

Ultimately however it is important that employers, working with trade unions, can ensure that there is a greater inter-play of the interests and needs of workers at different ends of the age spectrum and there were some excellent examples offered from companies like BASF.

Ultimately the conference was a showcase of the best of what trade unions and employers can achieve when working jointly - not always possible or easy - on an issue that is here to stay for some time.

Any questions or comments on this are very welcome.

In Solidarity


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