EPSU Executive Committee 5 November: Different Countries - Same Fight - Same Demand: Fair Wages and Investment

(12 November 2014) As the 4 day fire-fighters strike in the UK was drawing to an end on 4 November, the EPSU Executive Committee expressed its solidarity with our UK colleagues and other public service unions out on the streets.

The unions are demanding a change of direction in the economic and social policies of their countries and of Europe. On 6 November, EPSU Vice-President Francoise Geng joined the General Secretary and EPSU Staff in the largest Belgian demonstration in nearly 30-years. The EPSU President Annelie Nordström will join the Italian public service unions in Rome as the General Secretary walks with the Dutch confederation FNV in The Hague 8 November.

There were actions in energy and transport in France 4 November and the Serbian health workers organised a strike on 5 November. EPSU's Belgian affiliates organising prison guards are on strike 7 November.

And as workers, our families and communities across Europe are asked to shoulder the burden of austerity, leaked documents showed how the Luxembourg government has been actively undermining public services in Europe by offering rich individuals and corporations the possibility to avoid paying their taxes. Not acceptable and Luxembourg and the European Commission will need to address this. The new Commission President Juncker starts with a credibility problem. He was the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance when these shady and immoral constructions were approved. And our Portuguese colleagues reminded us that he was also the President of the Eurogroup that supported the austerity programmes for Portugal, Ireland and Greece. Our colleague of Adedy informed us that the unions will organise a general strike to protest after 6 years of recession, 23 November.

Members of the Executive Committee discussed the economic and social situation in Europe. With sluggish growth, threat of deflation in several countries, the austerity policies not only impact on Eurozone countries but on the whole of the EU, European neighbourhood as well as Russia and the global economy as our Russian colleague told us. Part and parcel of these austerity policies is often the continued attack on trade union rights with more European unions working with PSI to lodge complaints with the ILO.

On a proposal of STAL, the Executive Committee adopted a statement in support of the Portuguese unions. The central government refuses to recognise over 500 agreements the unions and the municipal employers have entered into to keep the working week at 35 hours. The government wants to increase this to 40 hours and is blocking the agreements. Legal complaints have supported the arguments of the unions. Rather than recognise the results of bargaining the government wants the whole bargaining process to start anew. The Executive Committee expresses its deep concern about the attitude of the government. Such intervention is not acceptable.

Our President Annelie drew attention to the fight of all unions in Europe to demand a change of direction. In the EU that concentrates on insisting that the proposals of the new Commission for an investment plan are concrete, include new funding and also focus on the benefits of investment in social infrastructure like child and elderly care to allow women and men to participate in the labour market, a point EPSU and ETUC were making in the Tripartite Social Summit. Members warned about the risk that Juncker's plan is conditioned on demands for structural reform of the labour market as the employers want: we do not need more precarious work or decentralised bargaining. We agreed to use the publication of the Annual Growth Survey and EPSU's analysis of it, to hightlight the ETUC's investment plan during the Executive Committee, making our demands also visible together.

Other issues decided:
- Work plan 2015-2019 following Congress and outlining the direction of our work and implementation of the resolutions A little booklet is available with the resolutions and was presented.

- Main areas of work for 2015. This will include our work on changing Europe's direction towards Another Europe and our continued challenge of austerity, of structural reforms that hurt workers and our communities, of attacks on trade union and workers' rights. Europe needs investment and workers need a pay increase. A main challenge is that we prevent the ratification of the CETA free trade agreement on the table and that we block the ongoing negotiations on TTIP and TISA. Preparing for the discussions on Working Time keeping the focus on health and safety, ensuring that the European Citizens Initiative Right2Water gets support in the own-initiative opinion of the European Parliament and underlining the role of social services are other areas of continued work.

- Budget 2015. A new way of budgeting with clear visibility of how the funding will be spent was adopted.

- Finances. The Executive also took important decisions on the finances of the organisation ensuring a stable framework for the years to come. We will do a mid-term review of our work plan and the finances. Affiliates will be informed separately.

- Affiliation requests of Polish OPZZ trade union in health, Azeri trade union in water and Armenian trade union in state enterprises, municipalities and public services were approved. The unions were welcomed in the trade union family.

We further discussed amongst others:

- ETUC Congress (29 September 2 October2015, Paris)

- Joint Labour Market Analysis between the ETUC and the European employer organisations. A number of issues remain which will make it not possible to sign. Negotiations need to continue to find a much better balance.

- Follow up to the Merger between EPSU and the PSI-Europe region in 2009. These discussions will continue and the Cooperation Committee has foreseen a further two meetings before the next Executive Committee. The Executive Secretary of the Pan-European Regional Council gave a presentation on the challenges for the trade unions in Europe.

- The work EPSU does in social services.

The meeting took place on 4-5 November 2014, in Brussels

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