Klaus Huneke spoke on behalf of Euratex at Tripartite Social Summit
Tripartite Social Summit focused on jobs, growth and convergence in Europe took place on 15 October in Brussels with participation of Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission. Mr Klaus Huneke, Euratex Vice-President Treasurer, spoke on behalf of the textile and clothing industry.
KLAUS HUNEKE’S SPEECH
As you know, the textile and clothing (TC) sector is one of the largest consumer goods sectors in the world and the EU TC industry is a leader in world markets. The EU exports to the rest of the world represent more than 30% of the world market while the EU Single Market is also one of the most important in terms of size, quality and design. This EU industry is composed of more than 170.000 companies (mainly SMEs) providing employment opportunities to 1.6 million of workers, the majority of whom being women. It is also a significantly diversified industry (from fibres to clothing and technical textiles, e. g. aircraft, military and health), where several sub-sectors coexhist, sharing some common interests and diverging in some other cases on industrial needs. In this context, an important role has been played over the years by national and European Social Partners, in keeping together this multitude of entities, trying to support the future of its workers across Europe. The EU TC Sectoral social dialogue itself has a long tradition, and after more than 20 years of joint activities and dialogue, the balance is positive, even if certain challenges still remain.
EU TC SOCIAL DIALOGUE
In this context and particular historical moment, the EU Social partners of the TC industry are fully aware that the EU Social dialogue is a fundamental tool to support an sustainable development of the TC industry. We welcome the announcement of the proposed strengthening of social dialogue and the greater involvement of the social partners. To that end, the European Commission should reaffirm and fully respect the role and independence of the social partners in consultation procedures on social legislation and, above all, to ensure that they are fully involved topics specifically relevant to their Industry. This needs to be coupled with appropriate processes for ensuring that sectorial social partners’ input is required in the whole process of the European Semester.
The EU Social partners from our industry have a joint great deal to accomplish facing the increasing needs of the industry regarding various key issues linked to anticipation of industrial challenges, skills development and training and external trade negotiations, among others.
SKILLS, EMPLOYMENT AND GROWTH
In the last 2-3 decades a massive restructuring has heavily changed the face of the TC value chain in Europe. The core moved from manufacturing to downstream/upstream activities therefore reducing, in relative terms, the place of manufacturing in the value-chain (that remains crucial) while increasing the role of the positions linked to innovation and management. Today, the need to adapt the offer to the demand in terms of Vocational Education and Training is crucial for our competitiveness, to allow the diffusion in our SMEs of number of innovations while at the same time trying to solve the skills and competences needed mismatch despite a problem of image and social consideration linked to the sectors history. Created jointly by the EU Social partners in 2011, with the support of the EU Commission, the European Sector Skills Council Textile Clothing Leather and Footwear particularly addresses this need for improvement of education, skills and employment in those industries.
GROWTH AND EXTERNAL TRADE
Eventually, EU growth and jobs may also come from outside Europe, especially for SMEs of the TC Industry. In the current context, the Agreement between the European Union and the United States offers a unique opportunity to create a new free trade area on an unprecedented scale. TTIP is a chance to boost our industrial competitiveness by eliminating trade restrictions helping industry with a return to pre-crisis levels of growth and contributing towards Europe’s reindustrialization with the greater social benefits which this will bring.