18 December 2017

Eulogy for Laureates of the Labor Mobilis Honorary Award 2017

Prof. Jozef Pacolet and Frederic De Wispelaere – researchers at HIVA Research Institute for Work and Society of KU Leuven are the laureates of this year’s Labor Mobilis Award.

Both scientists were appreciated for their perseverance and impartiality in research on posting of workers whose groundbreaking outcome will allow the facts overcome misperceptions. Here’s the eulogy for Laureates, delivered by Danuta Jazłowicka, member of European Parliament and the laureate of Labor Mobilis 2013.

Jef, Frederic – excellent job! And that’s where the laudation could end. But why should we give a reward for someone simply doing their job? After all, aren’t their paychecks from the University of Leuven enough of a reward ? Well, the answer is NO.

“Spotting differences in seemingly identical phenomena, the ability to associate seemingly unrelated facts and critical thinking in the recognition of truth and falsehood. The passion associated with such talent manifests itself as a passion for research, which consists of fear of the unknown and the desire for the most accurate answers and the most rational solutions.” Researchers should cultivate their doubts, and they must remain skeptical and critical, while the sole thing they have to believe is that the truth is out there.

Naturally, the researcher’s skills are no less important. A researcher must know the tools in their workshop: critical thinking, logical thinking, reasoning. They must bring the results of the research out to the public. Show them to the world in an intelligible way.

All these qualities characterize our Laureates.

Yet they must have felt an anxiety when the data they gathered revealed an image of posting of workers so different from the one embedded in politicians’ perceptions due to lack of data and research. The groundbreaking nature of their work is that the Authors took up a topic which was controversial, at the forefront of political agenda. And decided to verify the common perception that posted workers are the source of social dumping and displacement on local labor markets, especially in the construction sector in Belgium.

The hypothesis did not withstand the collision with the collected empirical material and showed a different image than the one, we were used to. Congratulations! It is not easy to discuss with politicians! I know a thing or two about this.

Today’s award is a tribute to the perseverance and objectivity of Jef and Frederic, but also a reminder of an important but undervalued virtue. By this I mean responsibility. Responsibility of researchers in pursuit of truth. The responsibility of politicians for listening to all stakeholders, for verifying them against the data and reality. And for making fact based policy choices.

Once the research is published, the results are subject to interpretation. We all look at the same image (the same data), but everyone sees something else. We pay attention to some details, omitting other ones. We often see what we look for, even if it is not there. Even though the facts are not to be discussed with. Jef and Frederic present the facts in a clear way. The impact of posting workers on economies of receiving states is positive. Disturbance, social dumping or displacement of local employees is caused by unregistered employment and bogus self-employment.

Today’s award is also an expression of responsibility of the Members of LMI and the Jury for the research which demonstrates the true picture of the market and undermines stereotypes and prejudice, so that it draws the attention of politicians responsible for shaping the playing field in the single market. In the justification of the award, by using the future tense: “will overcome” the Jury expresses the regret that prejudice and stereotypes are, for the time being, dominant in shaping the rules of work mobility. By awarding the prize, however, we would like to encourage these two, and all other researchers frustrated by the politicians ignoring their research, not to abandon their critical approach, perseverance and impartiality, as in the long run the facts will overcome the prejudices. Then, long after going into retirement, they will be able to sit in a rocking chair and smile to each other – ‘I told you, didn’t I…’

Inaugural address of the President of LMI Stefan Schwarz during V ELMC

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