31 October 2011

Social rights

Only now I am to deal with social rights – but it means not that they are little important. On the contrary, they belong to the most important ones which the present time needs. The capitalism – though many people would deny see it in this way – got now in such phase that social rights acknowledged earlier as self-evident are more and more decreased (literally “cut”) in favour of (alleged) needs of the economy and its growth. Some think yet that the economy is a tool to provide for needs of people but most people (and politicians especially) look at the economy as kind of a machine independent on people and their needs, as if people had to adapt themselves to the economy and not the economy to the needs of people. Economy is actually today almost only a name for supranational corporations and big financial institutions and growth of economy is in fact growth of billions in accounts of their proprietors (and shareholders) – and it is no propaganda, in the most capitalist country in the world, the United States of America, 95% of the sum of more that one trillion (1x1018) dollars by which the United States got rich in the last thirty years came in the pockets of upper 5% of their inhabitants; the same process is under way in Europe, only slower and less extensive. But social rights cannot be fulfilled by mere talking, great means are necessary but they disappear from the wide society towards its most richest part that needs (and wants) not social rights for others than itself. Social rights ad freedom and equality of people are not two different things and that is the reason why everybody who wants to defend and promote freedom and equality of people must promote and defend also social rights.

Before I will discuss individual constitutional suggestions I must comment one more thing. The European national politicians often emphasize the social role of the present European Union. It is not completely untrue but the same politicians who govern it adopt such rules that put in fact the social rights in the shade. The article 151 of the Lisbon treaty speaks about basic social rights and in the same time about competitiveness of the economy. But what competitiveness is? It is ability to compete, to pass a competition. Who should compete with whom? The European workers with the Chinese or Vietnamese ones? Or small family firms with giant supranational corporations? Or economies of singular European states with each other? Or everything this together? But every competition has its winner and its loser – how it matches up to social rights? Should a conception of social rights of united Europe be a right to everybody to be defeated in the economic competition and afterward to be rescued through a social help? I presume that it is nonsense and that social rights must guarantee that nobody or almost nobody will need to be rescued after a loss in an allegedly inevitable and necessary competition of everybody with everybody. Economy is a way how to ensure need of people, not a winner competition. Therefore the word competition must not be used in the section of the social rights, even not in the whole constitutional document at all.

Now, I will at last deal with individual social rights that should be involved in the text of the European constitution.

I opened every chapter of the section of basic rights with provisions taken from the Universal Declaration and I will not do it otherwise now. The first three letters of this suggested section almost literally agree with first three letters of the article 23 of the Universal Declaration. The first letter (a) is the same as the point one of the mentioned article 23 (right to work and just working conditions as well as to protection against unemployment), I only added “in every place of the European Union” to the words about free choice of employment.

The letter (b) speaks according to the point two of the article 23 about the right to equal pay for the same work, I added again some words, in concrete terms I stated the discrimination more precisely by the words “in particular on the basis of sex and nationality” because these two kinds of work discrimination are the most common.

The suggested letter (c) literally repeats the point three of the article 23, I added to it one complete sentence. The sentence develops the words about remuneration for work. It says that amount of the pay cannot fall under the minimal limit determined by the law. The provision about minimal pay is a very important specification of the right to just and favourable remuneration expressed in the Universal Declaration.

The provision under the letter (d) follows that is completely my suggestion and is not taken over from any constitutional text or an international treaty. It is an answer to that what happens in the field of providing with social help in Europe today. The situation is clear: governments reduce tax obligation of firms (especially of the greatest ones) and rich individuals, the firms economize on their employees at the same time, numbers of unemployed growths but states have due to their tax policy less and less money to their support (they have actually less and less money for everything), therefore there is an effort to restrict access of people to the limited amount of financial means that the governments have at their disposal. So state bodies, also job centers themselves think up various conditions on that the unemployed can obtain a social help (they must “deserve” it and so they often do some unpaid or for only symbolic remuneration in order that they are not removed from the list of them who have claim to obtain unemployment insurance. Besides, the unemployed are even followed by spies and controlled in their homes whether they deserve the help. This is frequent in some European countries and diffuses in others; besides discarding those who need it from the social help lowers official unemployment rate. So I have reacted to this development by the provision that says that everybody who without his (her) own fault cannot find a job for what he (her) has capabilities has right to worthy providing for his basic needs and its allotting or taking away must not be degrading or independent of a person's will. Every word in this reading is important and necessary if a jobless person should remain a valuable member of the society and not a sort of human waste.

The following provision of the letter (e) is again taken over by me from the Universal Declaration (article 23, point 4), it says about the right to form trade unions. I added a sentence formed according to the Portuguese constitution saying that trade unions should be independent on employers, the state and political parties.

The following suggested letter (f) continues dealing with trade unions. It is based primarily on the article 27 of the Charter of Right which determines that workers (employees) have a right to be informed about action of the management of the firm and that they have a right to defend their right by a strike. But I added also same other provisions. The first of them is taken over from the Portuguese constitution and says that trade unions or other employees unions have a right to perform control of the firm management. This provision may seem revolutionary at the present time (and no wonder, it is taken over from the revolutionary constitution) but a constitution has not a task to preserve the current condition of the society – and the present condition in this case is that possessors (and shareholders) of firms, especially the great ones, pay attention in particular to their profit and social consequences of their conduct stay in background of their interest. For example, to close a local factory or a branch of another kind, though profit-making, to dismiss all employees and to move it by its possessor to another place if more profit is awaited in the new place is considered as normal in the present time. These and similar cases ought to be prevented just by the provision about the right of the employees to control the firm management. Many will probably make an objection that firms (the greatest ones especially) will not be willing to work under such circumstances and will leave together with their job opportunities and thus this constitutional provision would contribute to growth of unemployment. My answer to it is: Is departure of firms (the greatest ones especially) abroad accompanied with loss of jobs not in progress already today when there is no constitutional provision? And how long the European society will defer to firm managers and their longing for utmost own profit? Is any reason why employers and employees cannot be partners? I pass away the answer and change slightly the subject; there is not yet the end of this letter. I added two more sentences concerning still the trade unions or other employees unions. They must have a right to defend their interests through a strike or collective bargaining, which are traditional right of workers though they are with difficulties to put into effect in the present times. The last sentence adds that the right to strike can be restricted to workers safeguarding public orders such as policemen; similar provision is in some constitutions of the European states too.

The next provision (g) is taken by me from the constitution of Portugal. It says that workers have a right to their job security and that they cannot be dismissed without just cause or on the basis of conviction. Significance of this provision is obvious: to give some security to workers (employees) without which nobody can beforehand plan his life and is forced to live in uncertainty.

The following two proposed provisions are not to be found in any European state's constitution or any international agreement. They make a revolutionary impression, especially the first of them. So the letter (h) speaks about the right of workers to participate in decision about outcome of their work (more precisely that the public authorities should create conditions for it). In fact, it is extension of the provision about control of the firm management by the employees. Many would say that it is unjust to order the firm possessor how he should handle the firm's profit. But let us consider that firm's possessor would have no profit if his employees (workers) made it not through their work. An objection can emerge that the employees get already their pay (wage) and it must be enough for them. The answer to this objection is simple: the value of the possessor's profit is (usually) much higher than the value of pays paid from it and the workers thus lose the most part of their work's outcome. To decide about destiny of this part ought therefore be a just compensation of it and expression of equal relationship between employer and his employees as I wrote about it above.

The following proposed letter (i) partially continues the previous letter (h). It answers a question what shall be use of outcome of human work or in other words, where shall go the profit from economic activity. And it is a response to the development of distribution of wealth in the world of today – the development by which more and more of property concentrates in the hands of less and less narrow class of possessors; this happens also in Europe and accelerates. Anybody can hardly be found who would say it is just. The huge size of property of the most rich people points out that people's work can produce enough means that are able to fill people's needs, but in the case of their more just distribution. What exactly is the just distribution can be a subject of controversy but the principle itself is unquestionable. I expressed the principle in the words: fruits of the work should fill material, social and cultural needs of every member of the society.

The next letter (j) is literally taken from the Universal Declaration, from its article 24; it speaks about leisure time, limitation of working hours and paid holidays.

The following suggested letter (k) speaks about heightened protection at work and enumerates those who have have a right to it: women, in particular during a pregnancy and after childbirth, youthfuls, physically handicapped persons as well as those who do an extremely hard work or work under conditions that endanger health. This provision is based on the article 59 of the constitution of Portugal, slightly only rephrased by me.

A necessity to get resources for life and child care (as a part of family life) not rarely come into conflict as every woman searching a job knows. The Universal Declaration says nothing about this matter, so I approached the Charter of Rights that mentions it in the article 33. It says everything what is necessary in essence, so I took it over in my suggestion in its completeness, only without the initial reason that is inappropriate in a brief constitutional text. I only added one sentence to the provision that is more specific about the words of the paid parental leave; according to it size of social benefits in parental leave should not be less than the minimal pay. The society appreciates thereby that its new member's care is equally important as the paid work in the economy.

Also the sequent proposed letter (m) is based on a provision of the Charter of Rights. Its respective article 26 concerns right of persons with (physical) disabilities. I took it over almost literally (naturally not using a formulation “the Union recognises”).

The previous regulation concerns maybe only persons with physical disabilities, maybe persons with all disabilities, that is also those one with mental disabilities. I suppose that mental disabilities are not the same as the physical ones, so I reached the conclusion that a separate provision is needed for this case. I found an appropriate formulation in the Portuguese constitution (article 71) though it concerns both types of disabilities: citizens who are physically or mentally disabled enjoy all the rights and be subject to all the duties embodied in the Constitution, except for the exercise or performance of those for which their disablement renders them unfit. I made these words a basis of the letter (n) restricting them however only to the mentally disabled persons (instead of citizens) for the physically disabled ones are already treated by the previous regulation.

A suggestion of the letter (o) follows. It concerns the child labour and I take it literally from the article 32 (“The employment of children is prohibited. The minimum age of admission to employment may not be lower than the minimum school-leaving age”). Nothing more is necessary to add.

The letter (p) concerns persons in the opposite side of their working life. The Charter of Rights mentions the elder people and their rights in the article 25 (according it, they should lead a worthy and independent life and participate in social and cultural events. This provision should be present in the European constitution too but I add to the same provision (to my suggested letter (p)) one more important regulation. The regulation concerns a right to a subsidy paid in the age in which a man cannot work more – the Charter of Rights speaks not about this right (has a man a right to the old age pension according to the European politicians?) and as we know, in all European states constantly grows the minimal age that gives a citizen a right to receive the old age pension. But the age reaches already in some cases such values which are hardly to bearable for many people. To want that elder people work in their advanced old age is absurd not only because of both physical and mental diseases of elder people but also because employers want young and efficient emloyees rather than elder, decrepit and ill ones. It is easy to order that people should work till a great age but it is more difficult to guarantee that these people have an adequate job at all. But we should think of their right to have a rest after lifelong work rather than meditate how to reduce a time in which a man has claim to his old age pension. The federal constitution should therefore guarantee a right of everybody to stop working when powers diminish and to spend the rest of his life supported by the society.

The letter (q) deals with another important matter of human social life – a place to live. This right is largely acknowledged though in spite of it there are homeless people in the European countries. But future acknowledgment of this right – as decline of Europe will proceed – may be endangered (the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Basic Freedoms of the EU knows it not!), therefore it is necessary to guarantee the right in the federal constitutional text. I found a matching provision in the Portuguese constitution (article 65) and took it over because it aptly says all: “Everyone has the right for himself and his family to a dwelling of adequate size satisfying standards of hygiene and comfort and preserving personal and family privacy”.

The last but one letter (r) contains a suggestion of a right that is concerned by the Charter of Rights. The right refers to access to health care. The Charter of Rights says that “everyone has the right of access to preventive health care and the right to benefit from medical treatment under the conditions established by national laws and practices”. This wording is however not exhaustive and causes some questions. The most important of them is how extent the guaranteed health care should be. Should one understand it that all of the medical science are accessible to everybody or the right guarantees that everybody will obtain at least some medical treatment (in quality and extend according to one's wallet)? The wording admits both interpretations. It is therefore necessary to add some words to the wording of the Charter of Rights. So I added the word “equal” before the words “right of access” and the word “necessary” before the words “health care”, just behind them then the words “paid from the public health insurance regardless of his wealth status”. The words about national laws and practices have been omitted by me. Some of these principles are to found in some European constitutions, for example the Czech or Portuguese one, that speak about the public health insurance. However, I did not finished by inserting some words in the Charter of Rights' text. Moreover, I added one another sentence that should clarify signification of the preceding words: the society should strive for full health of every person.

It was not usual in my suggestions of other groups of rights that I wrote conclusions to them in a form of another constitutional provision. But the social rights are more specific in this regard because I believe that many enumerated social rights are not considered essential and necessary. But it is misunderstanding. It has been spoken about democracy oft but only to give a right to vote to the citizens in not sufficient to build democracy – people without a job or even homeless people go to the polls not and care about public questions not as well because their main concern is to survive. Precondition for democracy simply are socially confident citizens as dignified members of the society and a clear conclusion emerges from it: no democracy can exist without social rights. So my suggestion of the concluding letter (s) reads: “The public authority should guarantee access to the enumerated social rights to everybody and their realization. Without full realization of social rights nobody can be a fully valuable member of the society.”