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Mr. László ANDOR
EU Commissioner responsible for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion
"What future for transport? Beyond challenges, towards a shared vision of mobility"
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European Economic and Social Committee
Brussels, 27 April 2010
Ladies and gentlemen,
Would the pioneers of the automobile age such as Lenoir, Otto, Daimler, Ford, Benz or Diesel recognise their inventions when looking at today's engines and cars?
Maybe not at first sight, but when taking a closer look they would possibly be impressed about how succeeding generations of engineers and car manufacturers have further developed their inventions.
In the 19th century the pioneering internal combustion engine was a solution to the challenges and needs of the time. Today, low-carbon – or even better - carbon-free technologies for propulsion should be the answer. Indeed some of them are already in advanced stages of development.
But, as CLEPA and EMF have outlined in their joint Statement of October 2009, the automotive industry is faced with more challenges than just climate change.
For years the European car industry has been undergoing a process of restructuring, due to overcapacity, fierce global competition, the saturation of its main markets in Europe and North America, and increasing fuel costs.
Moreover, the economic crisis has added new challenges, including decreasing consumer demand, the tightening of credit conditions and low consumer confidence.
Given all these environmental, economic and social challenges the European car industry has no choice but to re-invent itself in order to stay competitive and respond to the ever growing environmental concerns.
With this in mind, I would like to quote CLEPA and EMF in their Joint Statement of October 2009, in which they stress their belief "that part of the answer to the challenges of the crisis is a green vehicle and that it will need a concerted effort from all the actors".
I fully agree with this vision. In particular, I believe that green vehicles are a great opportunity for the European automobile industry that cannot be missed.
Of course, the scale of restructuring and adaptation that is required by the decarbonisation of transport is immense. It may reach the same scale as the transformation triggered by the Fordian innovation of mass production.
It goes without saying that the restructuring of the European automobile industry will also have a lasting effect on the jobs in the sector.
We will be witnessing both job creation and job destruction, and, above all, job transformation. New tasks, new skill profiles and new working arrangements will be needed. It is therefore necessary to reflect on how to manage the transformation process.
In particular, anticipating the new job, skills and competence requirements and strengthening investment in education and training are essential if European industry is to have access to a suitably skilled workforce. This means also that a whole new training system must be developed and implemented.
With this in mind, I would like to recall that at the end of 2008 the Commission launched the "New Skills for New Job" initiative, at a time when the effects of the crisis could already be felt, and when it was clear that the crisis will pose almost unprecedented challenges.
This initiative gives EU Member States the opportunity to learn from each other and to share solutions by pooling their efforts at the European level, as well as with other international organisations, on the themes related to skills upgrading, matching and anticipation.
For the automobile industry this means that we need to reinforce the already strong focus on vocational education and training. We know that most people who will fill the jobs in the next ten years are already working today.
We must start today rather than tomorrow to prepare them for the skills and competence requirements of the future. And, as you may know, the European Union can support such actions through its European Social Fund.
And we do this already. For example, the European Social Fund together with the Swedish government contributes with up to 11 million euro to Scania, for a training program to increase the workers' general knowledge, improve the skills of blue collar workers and increase their problem-solving abilities.
In the German Saar area, the ESF is supporting the automotive industry with 4 million euro, helping 1000 people from various companies to build their skills – and another 400 workers who are specifically in danger of unemployment.
The resulting increase in skills, in employability is helping not only Scania or other specific companies, but the whole local automotive sector. Even employers in other sectors.
If we invest in human capital, we invest in the most universally applicable productive force.
Skills have the nature to decline if they are not practised and used. Mass redundancies may bring the risk that many workers lose their skills, if we cannot help them to find new employment quickly. Therefore the EU is helping workers made redundant to adapt to change, to acquire new skills.
Since its establishment in 2007, the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund has received 10 applications for funding for workers made redundant by the automotive sector, relating to almost 13,000 redundancies. Six of these applications have already been paid, so that EUR 34 million have been made available for measures helping these workers to find new jobs. Payment is underway for one more application (EUR 6 million), and three applications for EUR 60 million EUR are currently pending.
Tackling the challenge of 'greening' the automobile industry will not be possible without the active involvement and participation of employers and employees, and their respective social partner organisations. The latter must play a key role as mobilisation and dissemination agents.
I, as European Commissioner, consider it crucial to also take this involvement to the European level.
Let me illustrate this with a few examples.
First, the European Commission supports the full involvement of the European Social Partners' organisations in the climate change agenda. President Barroso recently wrote to ETUC responding positively to their request.
Second, I would like to invite CLEPA to take an active part in the work of the new social dialogue committee in the "metal, engineering and technology-based industries". Indeed, this new committee, that has been established between the EMF and CEEMET, covers the whole spectrum of metal industries and includes motor vehicles and automobiles.
Third, I was very pleased about the Joint Declaration signed by CLEPA and EMF in which you recognised the need to anticipate and manage restructuring and anticipate the skills and qualifications and called for the creation of a Pan European Observatory. As I stressed before, the Commission is completely sharing this vision.
Finally, in this spirit, I would like to invite the stakeholders to work together with the Commission's services in order to establish a European Skills Council in the automotive sector.
This Council would help existing national observatories on skills and qualifications in the automotive sector.
It should facilitate the exchange of information between national institutions, and allow its dissemination to a wider audience. Its participants would be the European social partners and the representatives from national observatories and skills councils of the automotive sector.
The Commission would be an observer and would financially support its creation.
We hope that the first European sectoral skills councils will be launched in the course of next year, and I would be pleased if the automotive sector would be among the first.
Certainly, a European skills council will not bring about new ground-breaking technological inventions. But it will provide the necessary information and exchange of good practice.
This would ensure that the workforce in the European automotive industry can rapidly and effectively adapt to the technological innovations brought about by the Lenoirs, Diesels or Ottos of today.
To conclude, I would like to congratulate the organisers of this event – CLEPA and EMF – for their initiative to hold this forum and for the work that you have carried out in implementing the action points of the European Partnership for the Anticipation of Change in the automotive sector.
In addition, I would like to encourage you to develop recommendations for all the economic and social actors on how to deal with restructuring, as is mentioned in our partnership's Work Programme. This will be another important step in gathering the good-will of both parties – companies and workers – to face the changes ahead.