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Public sector workers across Europe fight reductions in services

Unions in Greece, Germany, Netherlands, Ireland and Portugal take industrial action

(5 February 2010, Brussels) The European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU) is sending out a strong message of support to the tens of thousands of public sector workers who are taking action across Europe in defence of strong public services and decent pay, jobs and employment conditions.

EPSU affiliates in Germany , Greece , Ireland , the Netherlands and Portugal are, or will be, involved in various forms of industrial action this week and next. In Germany and the Netherlands employers want to freeze pay, in Greece workers are facing pay cuts after last year’s pay freeze, while in Ireland the government is pushing for further pay cuts.

Although not responsible for an international financial and economic crisis that has forced governments across Europe to take urgent and radical measures to support their economies, public sector workers are being asked to pay the price. Furthermore, some public sector employers are using the crisis as an excuse to avoid the proper processes of collective bargaining and social dialogue.

EPSU general secretary Carola Fischbach-Pyttel said: “Public sector workers are being forced to pay for an economic and financial crisis that was created by a run-away banking system. Citizens across Europe will suffer as a result as the provision of public services is slashed.”

However, it is not only national governments that are on the attack. They have been joined by the European Commission which this week urged the Greek government to include public sector pay cuts as part of its recovery strategy .

This is the most immediate and direct example of the European Commission attempting to influence the determination of public sector pay in a specific country.

However, it has been guilty of this several times over the past 18 months through its involvement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in loan packages for European Union member states like Hungary , Latvia and Romania as well as neighbouring countries like Serbia. In each case, the loan agreements required national governments to implement public sector pay freezes, cuts and reforms of pay systems, so undermining the national social dialogue structures that should be responsible for pay determination.

Public sector workers are committed to delivering vital services to Europe’s citizens and it is only with reluctance that they have to resort to industrial action. EPSU supports its affiliates and the individual members who are standing up to aggressive employers.

EPSU further reiterates the message confirmed at its Congress last June and Executive Committee last November that public sector spending cuts are not a solution to the crisis. In fact, cuts in pay and jobs create a serious risk that the first signs of economic recovery will be undermined as millions of public sector works see their purchasing power fall while becoming increasingly uncertain about their future employment. – Ends –

For further information contact

Richard Pond +44 7896 199107 or by email: rpond epsu.org Jan Willem Goudriaan, +32 2 2501080 or by email: jwgoudriaan epsu.org

EPSU is the European Federation of Public Service Unions. It is the largest federation of the ETUC and comprises 8 million public service workers from over 250 trade unions; EPSU organises workers in the energy, water and waste sectors, health and social services and local and national administration, in all European countries including in the EU’s Eastern Neighbourhood. EPSU is the recognized regional organization of Public Services International (PSI).

Ver.di, the main union that negotiates for workers covered by the local and federal government agreement, called warning strikes from 4 February in the lead up to the second round of negotiations. For press releases on the dispute visit the ver.di website.

The ADEDY public sector confederation has called a public sector wide strike on 10 February in protest at the Greek government’s plans to impose pay cuts after a pay freeze in 2009. There is information on the strike on the ADEDY website (in Greek).

Last year the Irish government introduced a 7% “pensions levy” that effectively reduced the take-home pay of all public sector workers. Its latest budget requires further cuts in pay. The EPSU affiliates involved in the work-to-rule across the public sector include IMPACT, the CPSU and SIPTU.

In the Netherlands, unions in local government have decided to begin a range of actions in protest at the employers’ failure to offer any pay increase. They are joined by workers in provincial government where employers have made a below-inflation offer). The main unions are the EPSU affiliates FNV Abvakabo and CNV Publieke Zaak.

The STAL public sector union is supporting a national demonstration on 5 February highlighting how public sector workers have seen their purchasing power eroded in recent years and responding to calls from the governor of the Bank of Portugal for pay restraint .

Financial Times online article: EU puts Athens under closer scrutiny

- Memorandum of understanding between EU and Hungarian government
- Memorandum of understanding between EU and Latvian government:
- Memorandum of understanding between EU and Romanian government: