This issue carries a feature on standardization, an area governed by new European rules since January 2013. The regulations introduce a series of measures that open up new opportunities for trade unions to get more involved in the work of European standardization bodies.

Table of contents

Editorial - Jobs and working conditions: two sides of the same coin

Europe is a patchwork of employment trends, with very wide gaps between countries and often regions of the same country. As a pointer, the increase from 7% to just short of 10% in all-EU unemployment from 2008 to 2011 covered drastic rises in Spain and Greece and a decline in Germany. The scale of the crisis, public policy differences, varyingly... Find out more

Community health and safety strategy: going nowhere

2013 got off to a very bad start for EU health and safety at work policies. The strategy for 2007-2012 has ended. But a new strategy is mired in doubts. Will there ever be one? And will it be up to addressing the problems identified in the different Member States? Occupational health policy planning has been around for thirty-plus years. The... Find out more

Standards development – a flashpoint of technical expertise and conflicting interests

Looking for how best to describe the world of standardization, the image that springs to mind is a gentlemen’s club where specialists coolly debate the state of the art and pass technical documents on the nod. Outwardly democratic – all interested parties are welcome – it is in reality mainly populated by the representatives of big industrial... Find out more

Frédéric Rey

France: sparks fly around electrical hazards standard

Over the past four years, a group of trade unionists has been involved in developing a standard on protection against electrical hazards. One of them tells his story. "If our group of trade unionists hadn’t been involved in developing a standard on electrical hazards, health and safety at work would definitely have counted for less in the final... Find out more

Anna Trenning-Himmelsbach

Going for the gold standard

Swedish trade unions play a unique role in standards development. No other EU country has so many trade unionists working in it. Step forward Sven Bergström. Sven Bergström turns 62 this year. That’s a good age to retire at, he thinks. "There’s more to life than just work. There’s just no end to it when you’re dealing with working conditions. You... Find out more

Ulrich Bamberg

KAN: a German trade union voice in standards

Standards are developed by private standards organizations working very much to the agenda of manufacturers and much less in the interests of workers who use their products. Germany’s Commission for Occupational Health and Safety and Standardization (KAN) has been trying for nearly 20 years to put this situation right. It upholds the interests of... Find out more

Ornella Cilona

Trade union involvement in non-technical standardization

The international standards body, ISO, has produced a flurry of draft social, ethical and environmental standards of late. Italian trade unionist Ornella Cilona reflects on her participation in the work culminating in the adoption of a standard on the “social responsibility of organizations”. Trade union involvement in non-technical standardization... Find out more

Denis Grégoire

Thoughts from the employers

Traditionally, the pace of standardization is set by the big firms, because standards take time, a lot of money and technical expertise to develop that others economic and societal players rarely have. The new EU Regulation on standardization changes the game by providing financial support to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and trade... Find out more

Pien Heuts

Dutch FNV union makes employers pay up for work-related diseases

Workers with an occupational disease have almost no chance of enforcing their rights. Dutch trade union confederation FNV’s Beroepsziekten Bureau helps members to prove employer liability and get compensation under the "polluter pays" principle. An accountant was recently awarded 370 000 euros compensation for burn-out. He had been working 60-to 80... Find out more

Pascale Guéricolas

Kitchen wars: Quebec unions overhaul organization to improve work ambiance

Preventing mental health problems is a health and safety at work priority for Quebec's Confédération des syndicats nationaux (Confederation of National Trade Unions). The Confederation is bringing support to workplace unions through an approach for improving employees’ work environment and well-being. Through it, one set of union members and their... Find out more

Marianne De Troyer

Westernizing the workforce. But at what cost to the workers?

An estimated three million employees work in 700 000-odd call centres in India. They are a highly-qualified, young, low-cost workforce serving western customers round-the-clock. They are mainly recruited through huge billboards on local college campuses blazoning images of young, westernized self-starters, well-paid and enjoying a laid-back... Find out more

Fabienne Scandella

Cleaning up the organization’s act

Violence does not have to be deliberately vicious to be harmful. It does not have to be a visible, "exceptional" flare-up to cause ill-being and pain. Sociologist Gilles Herreros makes his case not with illustrations of overt bullying and physical violence, very often deprecated at little cost by the community, to take a closer look at the banal... Find out more

Table of contents

Standardization: what roles for the unions?