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Press Release
François Biltgen: "Restructurings may be an opportunity"

Date of release : 08-04-2005

Policy area : Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs

Event : Informal Meeting of Ministers for Labour and Employment

The informal meeting of Europe’s Ministers for Labour and Employment, held on Friday 8 April 2005 in Luxembourg, was about the restructuring of enterprises. Current President of the European Union’s "Employment and Social Affairs" Council (EPSCO), François Biltgen, Luxembourg’s Minister for Labour and Employment, chaired this meeting.

The European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunity, Vladimir Špidla, introduced the "Restructurings and Employment" communication of 31 March 2005 from the Commission. The communication analyzes the European Union’s role in anticipating and supporting restructurings to promote employment. The Presidency had asked the ministers to discuss their experiences and their good practices with regard to "large-scale" restructurings as well as restructurings in the SME sector. The debate centred mainly around horizontal policies to be considered in order to better anticipate and support restructurings.

At the end of the meeting, the Minister stated that the debate, which revolved around "two strong points, the necessity for a coordinated anticipation policy and a constructive partnership to manage change for the benefit of enterprises and employees," was “highly consensual. We must communicate with the citizens. We must allay their fears and instil a climate of trust. It is obvious that in the globalised world in which we live, restructurings will continue to be normal and even necessary. We all agree that there is no purpose in delaying a restructuring or in subsidizing activities that have no chance of surviving. And so it is better to invest in the creation of new jobs. Financing inactivity would serve no purpose; we must finance employee activity."

The Minister then drew conclusions from the day’s debates: "First, the restructuring situations are very different in the Member States. Each country has its economic history. Also, the general rules for making a restructuring a success are the same everywhere: anticipation and partnership. Third point that must be stressed: there are successful restructurings but they require a long-term effort. Fourth: restructurings may be an opportunity for innovation and the creation of new products. Finally, we must replace the idea of job security with that of employment security. If we move toward flexibility without security, the result is insecurity. If there is insecurity, we know that the economy will also suffer as a result. The road we must travel is that of flexi-security."

Raising the idea of "toolboxes" that was the central part of the presentation by Maria João Rodrigues, coordinator for preparing the Lisbon Strategy in 2000, François Biltgen noted that this concept could "be useful for all the players, in other words, the enterprises, national, regional and local authorities, as well as the European authorities. The main goal of these toolboxes is to move from a purely passive restructuring policy to an active and even proactive policy. The passive policy is one of restructurings that result in lay-offs and unemployment compensation as well as pre-retirements. The active policy brings into play the social responsibility of enterprises, local initiatives for employment, and the coordination of policies for employment and industrial policies. The proactive policy is the one that needs to be implemented more in the future. It consists of long-term anticipation of human resources management, human capital and innovation policies."

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This page was last modified on : 09-04-2005

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