New European Industrial Trade Union Federation to be created

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At its congress in June 2011, the European Metalworkers' Federation voted in favour of creating a new European Industrial Trade Union Federation, linking with organisations representing workers from mining, chemicals and textile sectors across the EU. The move follows increasing close cooperation with other EU-level trade union federations that represent workers in these sectors, and it is hoped will mean better use of resources and greater representativeness.

Background

On 10 June 2011, members of the European Metalworkers’ Federation (EMF) voted in favour of creating a new European industrial trade union. The new organisation will comprise the EMF, the European Mine, Chemical and Energy Workers’ Federation (EMCEF) and the European Trade Union Federation - Textiles, Clothing and Leather (ETUF:TCL).

This move is seen as a logical step, as these three EU-level trade union federations already cooperate in a number of ways and they hope to now be able to deploy resources more effectively and benefit from greater representativeness.

The EMF notes that it has gained importance and political weight from the new structure. For example, its resources and competences have been enlarged and its functions have been expanded, developing from a lobbying organisation defending workers’ interests into a transnational coordination platform.

The EMF has concluded agreements that are binding upon member organisations, and is negotiating on an institutionalised basis with European institutions and employers.

Close cooperation

The EMF’s Work programme for 2011–2015 (279Kb PDF) provides evidence of the close and ongoing cooperation between it, EMCEF and ETUF:TCL.

For example, the three organisations outlined in October 2010 the main common principles (175Kb PDF) for a strong and credible European industrial policy, capable of tackling the challenges of the aftermath of the economic crisis, climate change and intensifying globalisation pressures. The common principles were based on the following six areas:

  • a strong social dimension to industrial policies;
  • growth-oriented macroeconomic and wage policies and improvement of working conditions;
  • a concrete industrial investment agenda;
  • a fair transformation towards an energy- and resource-efficient industrial model;
  • an effective European energy policy;
  • a fair level-playing field internationally.

The three federations stated that:

industry remains vitally important for a successful European economy to create jobs, to boost productivity, to fuel innovation and to raise social standards. Industrial policy must try to anticipate and manage change in a socially responsible way, with adequate financial and regulatory tools.

Building an industrial manifesto

Further, the EMF, together with EMCEF and ETUF:TCL, intends to evaluate its common industrial policy manifesto, originally developed in 2008 following the publication of Europe 2020 initiatives. Common activities will include:

  • promoting a growth-based recovery and opposing austerity in Europe, through demand-side industrial policies;
  • promoting and supporting all negotiations on the topic of reindustrialisation and/or industrial demands to avoid dismissals and increase employment;
  • monitoring Europe 2020 initiatives related to industrial and employment policies and using all routes to influence their development (through campaigning, social dialogue, action days, building alliances, participation in relevant high-level working groups, and the Consultative Commission on Industrial Change (CCMI) of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC));
  • developing an annual ‘State of European metal industries’ report beginning December 2011;
  • analysing labour market policy developments, anticipating employment and skills needs and the impact of demographic change, tackling skills gaps and developing strategies on industrial change; and
  • examining the impact of value-chain restructuring on European industrial strength, the position of supply industries and EMF industrial policy demands for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Europe.

EMF also intends to update its position on energy policy in the light of recent EU developments and price trends, together with EMCEF and ETUF:TCL. To this end, it will hold a joint seminar at the end of 2011 on energy policy to continue to build cooperation on industrial policy topics.

EMF will also further strengthen its Eucob@n collective bargaining network, developing and updating the joint website with EMCEF, ETUF:TCL and the European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism trade unions (EFFAT).

The EMF noted in a press release (75Kb PDF) that:

the history of European trade union structures has come full circle with the creation of a new trade union federation. It reunites mining and metalworkers’ unions into a single federation fighting for their aims, as was the case within the 21 Committee and the Coal and Steel Committee in the early days of European unification.

Commentary

Ever closer cooperation between European-level trade union federations is clearly going to characterise social dialogue arrangements at EU level in the future. This development mirrors trends at national level, where trade unions have sought closer cooperation and mergers in order to be able to better pool resources and concentrate their actions. At European level, it is becoming increasingly important for trade unions to coordinate their responses to pan-European policy developments in both social and economic fields.

Andrea Broughton, Institute for Employment Studies

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