The European Federation of Retired and Elderly People is a member of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC). It was founded in 1993 by pensioners who wanted to carry on their trade union struggle for a fairer, more democratic, more civic-minded and inclusive society with young people and active workers.
FERPA’s 9 million-strong membership makes it the most representative pensioners’ union in Europe today. It coordinates its policy with that of the ETUC, especially on social security and social protection, with particular focus on pensions, health care, and action against social exclusion and poverty.
FERPA works actively to shape European Union legislation and policies through direct lobbying of different European institutions. It wants a procedure to be set up for the European Commission to consult the most representative organisations of retired and elderly people so that their voice can be heard.
The Federation’s member organisations also lobby their national governments, especially ahead of European Council meetings whose agendas include issues of concern to retired and elderly people .
Elderly workers’ protection became one of the EU’s priorities on the employment front, as the differences in the employment rates of elderly workers constitute an important aspect of the inequalities in the different Member States.
The incentive towards active ageing meets two occupational targets set by the EU to “become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge economy of the world” by 2010.
During the European Council of Stockholm, in 2001, it was decided to raise the employment average rate of the European population aged between 55 and 64 to 50%.
In 2002, the European Council of Barcelona conclude d with an undertaking , by Members States, for the actual average retirement age to be gradually increase d by about 5 years by 2010.
Even in the European Council in the spring of 2004 on “Promoting Lisbon reforms in the enlarged Union” , the Commission, in setting the priorities to re - launch the Lisbon Agenda, stressed the importance of extending the active life of workers .
In many EU countries the national governments, being necessarily forced to face up to demographic ageing, the financial sustainability of welfare systems and the changing needs of the labour market, are endeavouring, albeit together with other modalities of intervention, to replace “the culture of early retirement” from the productive cycle , with a culture of delayed retirement.
Subsidies to companies that employ elderly workers through part-time contracts or other forms of flexible contracts
Initiatives to sustain employment of the elderly through forms of tutoring/support for creating businesses or micro-businesses and for creating self-employment
In the reintegration process, the social partners play a crucial role in encouraging enterprises to adopt a strategy for promoting active ageing , extending and improving the quality of the professional life , and developing, through negotiations , a participat ory approach to a better and more effective management of the ageing factor.
The European employment strategy (Wim Cock Report 2003)
Hiring of workers . All policies intended to ensure equal opportunities for elderly workers to access available jobs, by concurrently ensuring the absence of direct or indirect discrimination;
Training, development and promotion . Policies intended to ensure that training opportunities and successful career s are not refused to elderly workers. Such policies can be implemented both inside and outside the enterprise, through training schemes for elderly workers in some social utility programmes or in targeted short-term integration in the world of work ;
Forms of organi z ation of flexible work . More flexibility for elderly workers concerning working time or the date and type of retirement;
4. Redistribution of heavy work and reconfiguration of the workplace . A series of measures taken in different Member States to deal with diminished physical resistance due to the age, is included in this area. Typical examples include the exclusion of the obligation to carry heavy material loads or the reconfiguration of the workplace with, for instance, a higher lighting system.
5. Change of Employers’ attitudes . All the campaigns carried out by the different governments to raise awareness among managers, and all the persons involved in human resources, are included in this area.
In line with the Commission ’s request, Member States need to define, under their National Action Plans (NAP) for employment, measures to support elderly workers, with appropriate actions on the tax and social security system, access to skill acquisition and to continuing training , and fighting against discrimination.
Active life extension was pursued by most NAPs through a revision of the national social security system geared mainly to raising the retirement age (Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Finland and Portugal); in some cases incentives were given – through tax relief or the reduction of social security contribution s – to enterprises that expressed the intention to hire elderly workers (the Netherlands, Greece, Portugal, Belgium); in other cases the active life of elderly worker s was promoted by improving the employability of the single worker (Spain, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Germany).
Other planned measures concerned the adoption of a part-time work system, whereby the income is integrated by a reduced pension (Germany, Austria) and, finally, the increase in the cost to enterprises that make workers over 50 redundant (France).
Jointly and in line with NAPs, the social partners faced specific aspects of ageing, by signing tripartite global programmes ( as in the case of Finland and Germany), collective agreements ( the Netherlands and Belgium) or territorial or framework agreement s (France and Denmark). The different strategies applied by the social partners are geared essentially to qualitative intervention in terms of the employment level and adaptability, improvements at the workplace, more flexible work organization and a gradual reduction of the work load .
This would undoubtedly lead to a tangible improvement of the agreements on working conditions and the quality of working life for elderly workers (m e n and wom e n) over 55, even with particular emphasis on the fight against discrimination.
In such context, all Agreements signed at institutional level for the defence of an active role for the elderly in the social, cultural ( voluntary activity) and working life, would assume a greater value (mentoring, tutor ing , intra- generation al exchange management, etc .)
Develop initiatives on information and the sharing of good practices on industrial relations at national level, following the European standard on active ageing; gather good practices on industrial relations regarding employment of workers over 55 years (collective agreement s , inter - confederation agreements, territorial agreements, understandings for employment, social and employment polic y platforms,…);
O ffer opportunities for reflection on how industrial relations, negotiation s and trade union action can be strengt h en ed and coordinate d to provide successful answers to the problem of workers over 55;
E ncourage the exchange of experiences and the creation of a network between national and international experts on active ageing;
E valuate the incidence of the targets of active ageing and of the contribution of elderly citizen s to the improvement of social life in the territorial development p lans;
C ontribute actively to the discussion (and implementation) of European policies on the employment of the elderly;
Attach particular importance to the persistent gender discrimination that still affects workers over 55 and to the different improving practices in industrial relations.