And again another year has passed. A year full of challenges, but also of extraordinary and beautiful moments. The work never stops. There is still much to do in the world and much to improve. The coming period will all give us time to look back on the past year and make plans for the next.
When looking back at 2023, it is clear that the most important thing that happened is the horrific attacks on innocent people in Israel. People on a nice day out were attacked in the most brutal way. Many were killed and others were taken hostage. Israel was left with no other option than to respond. Resulting in a war with no end in sight. Leaving many innocent people dead and displaced, and a country in chaos. And that while the conflict in Ukraine has been going on for almost two years now. It will be a long and harsh winter for many.
Economically 2023 has been a difficult year. The past year we have all been confronted with high inflation rates. Our daily live has become more expensive. Particularly those with less flesh on the bone are having serious problems. Having two jobs does not even help. When we see that more and more people are experiencing poverty this is a clear sign that something will have to be done. We are human beings and we need to be there for one another.
On the labour-market too there are many challenges. The shortage of personnel is causing serious problems. Vacancies cannot be filled halting investments and leading to more pressure for those workers having to do more than they are often capable of. Stress and burnout are increasing, leading to absenteeism and further problems.
While we are experiencing a number of challenges we also see positive things happening. Wages are increasing and unemployment-rates are at an all time low. The trade unions are in a good position to support their members and sign agreements that benefit employees. And throughout the world there are glimpses of hope.
Let us all continue to work hard for the improvement of the position of workers in the year to come.
But before taking up this task let us all take some time to rest and make plans. This so that we can start fresh and try our best again in the new year. I hope you will all have the opportunity to spend time with your loved ones. This is important. Being together with family and friends is to be cherished. Work is important. Family, friends and good health are more important.
On behalf of the Board of the WOW I would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. That you may have a splendid and peaceful time and that we may see each other in the best of health in the new year!
Bjørn van Heusden – Executive Secretary of the World Organization of Workers – WOW