End of year 2011 message to all affiliates
2011 draws to a close. We have seen persistent attacks on public services and workers’ rights across the continent amidst growing uncertainty over the future of the Euro and indeed the ‘European project’ as a whole.
A number of immense challenges lie before us, but in facing these we can build on the not insignificant successes of this year and take inspiration from the EPSU coordinated action around 30 November. This was made up of major trade union actions, strikes, demonstrations, debates and rallies all across Europe, against social regression and demanding the end of austerity measures. As Bernadette Ségol, ETUC General Secretary, said: “Enough is enough! The future of Europe cannot be based on austerity, insecurity and social regression.” It was noteworthy that action was taken by affiliated unions in the EU/EEA countries as well as in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakstan and Tajikstan, in recognition of the need for European solidarity and a united response to problems.
EPSU will continue to work on alternative proposals to the austerity pursued by the European Commission and the European Council, emphasising the need for more investments in public services, infrastructure and green jobs, regulation of the financial sector, addressing rising inequality, poverty and unemployment, particularly of young people. We want to strengthen collective bargaining rights and demand respect of social partner autonomy. Given the large share of women within EPSU affiliates, particular attention has been and will continue to be on the impact of public sector pay and job cuts on the employment and working conditions of women.
In 2012 we will continue efforts to secure the Financial Transaction Tax (FTT), in cooperation also with the PSI. In an amazing U-turn, the European Commission put forward a draft directive for a FTT in the EU in September as a first step towards a global FTT. The income generated in the range of Euro 57 billion based on the proposed directive should in our view be used as additional funding for public services and to fight poverty. EPSU welcomed the proposed directive in principle, as have the ETUC and others. Further lobbying will be necessary in 2012 to counter opposition by some EU governments and the financial sector, including pensions funds. Securing the FTT in practice is part of EPSU’s broader work in support of progressive taxation and against tax fraud and tax havens. See also the adopted EPSU Action Plan against Tax Fraud. EPSU also joined the PSI rally for the FTT linked to the G 20 Summit in early November.
The Water Campaign will be launched in April 2012. Our aim is to obtain one million signatures for water as a human right through a European Citizens’ initiative. We will mobilise workers and citizens in support of this right and against the negative effects of liberalisation and pro-competition policies in the EU. This campaign should help us to change the EU mind-set from its current focus on competition pro-market and to a public service and a rights-based approach.
Public procurement continues to be on our agenda. Pressure on public budgets can lead to more public services being out-sourced for the wrong reasons – namely in order to cut jobs and pay. In 2012 the EU will revise the current EU rules on public procurement and EPSU, also as part of a broad ‘Network for sustainable public procurement’, will seek to strengthen the provisions against social and wage dumping and to uphold the right of public authorities to provide services ‘in-house’, including public-public cooperation. See the Network’s ‘key demands’. EPSU agreed a joint statement with the Employers Platform of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions which emphasizes that delivery of quality and sustainable services to citizens is the primary objective of public procurement and that local authorities must be able to determine how best to deliver services within their capacity.
EPSU’s Executive Committee adopted in November a resolution on public services that drew attention to the need to ‘activate’ the social provisions of the EU Treaty in support of quality public services and to link these to the legislative proposals impacting on public services – i.e, public procurement, State aid, trade policy, etc. These provisions underpin public services and call for “a high level of quality, safety and affordability, equal treatment and the promotion of universal access and of user rights”.
The European Commission is preparing a Communication on public services – but will it contain anything more that nice words about the Europe’s ‘shared values’ on public services?
Although the Durban summit on climate change did not bring any immediate results, many initiatives to combat global warming are expected in 2012. We will build on the EPSU study on Climate Change and Public Services as well as the recommendations adopted by the Executive Committee in April 2011.
The recent energy roadmaps set out the European Commission’s ideas about the possible paths to reach emission reductions of close to 100% for the European power sector in 2050. A social roadmap addressing employment, skills and qualifications should accompany the strategy. EPSU asks that the European energy policy improves access to energy for all and that will avoid the negative social consequences of increasing energy prices for energy consumers. We will work with other organisations to combat energy poverty. Ambitious and concrete investments are needed, in particular in renewable energies. Energy efficiency targets for Member States are an essential part of a future strategy that creates jobs, reduces CO2 emissions and makes the EU less dependent on external sources.
We have continued our work on social services with contributions to the EU discussion on social services of general interest and will be involved in a project to map out employers structures in the non-for-profit social services area.
2011 marked the first real ‘operational’ year of the EPSU/PSI Europe merger. A number of developments indicate that we are on the right track to strengthen the voice of public sector workers across the continent and indeed across the globe. These included:
After the European Utilities Conference in 2010, the second European conference was organised for the Health and Social Services sector in Bucharest in October.
A first meeting in November of EPSU affiliates against corruption, with the support of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) - Regional Office for project labour relations and social dialogue in South Eastern Europe. The conclusions of the meeting fed into the International UN day against corruption on 9 December and confirmed the strong view of trade unions that corruption is a threat to democracy and stability, and that it curbs economic growth and erodes the availability and quality of public services.
The EPSU’s youth network was launched on 6 December and brings together over 50 representatives from more than 25 countries.
At its November meeting, the EPSU Executive Committee decided to reinforce work on trade union rights, and in particular: to target trade union rights in Belarus, Georgia and Turkey, three countries assessed as “countries at risk” by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).
A major focus of our work was on EU external trade policy with a joint assessment with PSI Canada affiliates on the upcoming free trade agreement between the EU and Canada. This work will support EPSU members influence other negotiations with non-EU countries, including Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. Ukraine and Moldova signing the Memorandum of Understanding on the Social Aspects of the Energy Community was a success of EPSU and its affiliates in the energy sector.
We will aim to strengthen the epsucob@ collective bargaining network and public services network to ensure broad participation from across Europe; a special report on minimum wages in covering all Eastern European countries outside the EU was published
Our on-going work with PSI / EPSU affiliates in the Mediterranean region will be continued next year with a further project. See also PSI declaration on International Migrants Day of 18 December 2010
Updates on the above issues and much more will be on the EPSU website and reported on in in EPSU’s newsletters:
The main EPSU newsletter can be found here
the collective bargaining newsletter is available here where there is also an index by country. Articles are also available thematically: health and social services; local and regional government; national and European administration; public utilities; and gender equality
The articles in Public Service Monitor can be found here
Another busy year is ahead of us. The 29th PSI World Congress will take place in Durban, South Africa, from 27 – 30 November 2012. We are looking forward to this major event and to contribute to the shaping of the future programme of work with other colleagues from around the globe.
With my best wishes for the festive season,