ETUC sets out priorities for 2011–1014

At its congress in Athens in May 2011, ETUC presented its manifesto for 2011–2014, setting out its work priorities for that period in response to the financial crises in several EU Member States. These include promoting a social Europe, combating unemployment, rising inequality, precarious work and austerity governance, promoting growth and stability, increasing trade union strength and membership, and developing a joint response to an increasingly integrated Europe.

Background

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) launched its Athens Manifesto (96Kb PDF) at its congress held in Athens on 16–19 May 2011. It focuses on the financial crises in Greece, Ireland and Portugal and the austerity policies adopted by other EU Member States, which it believes are exerting downward pressure on pay, public services, social security, pensions and living standards in the EU.

ETUC is therefore urging the EU to provide help to countries in difficulty. In particular, it condemns the recent pact for the Euro (EU1104011I), which it believes has far-reaching implications for EU Member States, particularly in the area of pay.

By contrast, rather than using austerity measures that may provoke recession, ETUC states that:

  • wages are the motor of the economy, they promote growth and jobs;
  • the autonomy of the social partners in collective bargaining and pay negotiations should be respected;
  • purchasing power must be improved;
  • the trend towards income inequality should be reversed;
  • the fight against wage and fiscal dumping should be intensified;
  • pensions should be protected; and
  • rules on public debt should be adapted to economic realities.

ETUC also gave a commitment to:

  • combat the rising power of the far right;
  • fight unemployment, rising inequality, precarious work and austerity governance;
  • mobilise for growth and sustainability;
  • work towards greater trade union strength and membership; and
  • develop a joint response to an increasingly integrated European labour market.

ETUC’s work commitments

In order to achieve the goals set out above, ETUC’s manifesto sets out a total of 20 actions that it intends to undertake between 2011 and 2014. Firstly, it intends to fight for a new deal for workers, which will focus on growth, full employment and strengthening the European social model, as opposed to ‘austerity governance’. ETUC will also demand that fundamental social rights take precedence over economic freedoms, and wants to enshrine this into a social progress protocol in European treaties. It also wants this to be included in any revision of the posted workers directive.

ETUC intends to place more and better jobs at the centre of the EU agenda, with a particular focus on youth unemployment. It also intends to work with employers to promote green jobs, growth and investment, sustainable industry policy and education and training.

Improving working conditions is another priority for ETUC, including fighting undeclared work, the informal economy and wage dumping.

Further, a fair transition to a low-carbon economy is something that ETUC is committed to supporting actively, including through social dialogue.

Public sector workers have been facing large-scale redundancies in the EU in recent months, as a result of budget cuts. ETUC pledges to support public services and fight any dismantling due to austerity cuts and privatisation.

In the area of gender equality and anti-discrimination, ETUC states that it will work to support equality and combat discrimination. It also pledges to protect migrant workers by promoting mutual trade union membership recognition.

Health and safety is a further priority for ETUC, and it pledges to improve health and safety standards, including campaigning for working time regulation, monitoring agreements on stress and combating violence and harassment in the workplace.

ETUC supports EU enlargement and will support affiliates in Turkey and the western Balkans, and will also support fair and sustainable globalisation and the Pan European Regional Council.

Finally, it states that it will demand the right to strike on transnational issues and press for a specific labour chamber in the European Court of Justice.

Commentary

This manifesto details ETUC’s response to the actions that EU and national governments have taken as a result of the crisis, stating that there is an alternative to austerity measures which, in its opinion, will damage growth, jobs and employment terms and conditions.

These are difficult economic times for the European Union and it is clear that if European social partners wish to play a role in helping Europe move out of the crisis, they need to engage with the issues set out by ETUC. Although BUSINESSEUROPE has not commented on ETUC’s manifesto, and while it is not likely to agree with all of the points of view that ETUC holds, it is committed to the European social dialogue process and will no doubt engage in social dialogue to help the EU economy move forwards.

Andrea Broughton, Institute for Employment Studies

 

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