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Towards a new socio-ecological contract - ETUC/ETUI Conference

Sara Lickel Sara Lickel,

The ETUC/ETUI conference will take place online on 3-5 February. Sara Lickel, Policy officer at the Veblen Institute will join the panel on Trade and the Socio-ecological transition on February 5th, 9:00-10:30..

The need to effectively tackle global warming puts under pressure the existing industrial relations models in Europe. A new logic of sustainability needs to be incorporated into the social contracts in order to (re)build harmonious labour relations. A viable world of labour requires a new sustainability paradigm, which encompasses all three of its dimensions : economic, social and environmental.

Achieving economic sustainability (within the planetary boundaries) has become more challenging. Actual economic growth has come at a critically high cost in terms of inequality of opportunities and outcomes, planetary resources, biodiversity and environmental degradation, thus undermining both social and environmental sustainability. Social sustainability is also likely to come under increasing pressure from the impending fourth industrial revolution. In turn, widening inequality and climate change are forcing us to question the way we measure prosperity and wellbeing.

The magnitude of the required paradigm shift to ensure economic, social and environmental sustainability implies large-scale economic and societal change and serious deliberation. All workers need to be actively involved in a just transition and nobody should be left behind. Massive societal coalitions will have to be built for a shared vision to emerge and for the just transition, with fairly distributed costs, to be supported. But this is also an opportunity to redefine what we consider to be our societal goals and how they relate to the current focus on (green) growth.

The next ETUI-ETUC conference will pursue different lines of inquiry and discussion, seeking to understand not only the challenges before us but also to identify what we can do today and tomorrow in order to establish a new social, economic and environmental contract. What targets or objectives should be set, and how might they be reached ? How can we create a sustainable European growth model ? How can we reverse the trend towards growing inequalities ? What kind of Green New Deal is a realistic and feasible prospect for Europe ? What elements of justice, solidarity and equity constitute a fair and sustainable social foundation ? What are the roles of the market, the state, industry and civil society ? And what role can trade unions play to build a sustainable future that addresses all of these dimensions ?

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