2018: a challenging year of action and negotiation across the public services

This year has seen some important negotiating successes for public service unions but also continuing struggles in some countries where austerity is still having an impact. EPSU unions have been in action, locally, regionally and nationally across all sectors of public services from eldercare in France to prisons in Spain and from the waste sector in Germany to health workers in Romania

EPSU plays a key in coordinating European solidarity and there were several important examples of this during the year. There was a major effort to show support for the Danish unions whose plans for targeted strike action to strengthen their negotiating position were met with the threat of a massive lockout by public service employers. Many affiliates responded to the call for solidarity, giving a real boost to the 10000-strong meeting of shop stewards who gathered in Copenhagen to debate the unions' strategy. The strike and lockout were avoided and unions were happy with the end result worth 8.1% over three years.

EPSU has created a strong network of affiliates across the Orpea social care multinational and this paid off in the solidarity and support given to the ver.di trade union in Germany facing a difficult dispute with a local operation of Orpea's Celenus subsidiary. 

In November, EPSU affiliates responded enthusiastically to a call for solidarity with the UNISON and GMB unions and their 8000 local government members in Glasgow in the UK taking strike action in support of their longstanding equal pay claims.

In addition to the positive outcome in Denmark, there have been significant pay settlements for federal and local government workers in Germany, civil servants in the Netherlands, public sector workers in Spain, private sector health workers in Austria and local government workers in Finland. News on other pay deals can be found in the pay settlements section of the EPSU website.

Public service unions have been negotiating and taking action not just over pay but over a broad range of employment and working conditions as well as their basic rights. Health and safety and surveillance have been taken up by EPSU affiliates in the waste sector in Italy, France and the UK while prison unions have focused on violence as well as staffing and the right to strike in Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, Netherlands, Spain and the UK.

Gender equality is a priority for EPSU and affiliates continue to take initiatives to close the gender pay gap. As well as the action in Glasgow, there were also initiatives in Iceland, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Spain, where there was a major mobilisation by trade unions on International Women's Day.

Staffing levels have been a focus of union action and concern in health and social services, particularly in Germany but also in Austria, Denmark, France, Italy, Netherlands and Sweden. EPSU affiliates' successful negotiations on pay in the health sector in Bulgaria, Czech Republic and Romania should contribute to attempts by the unions in those countries to tackle the major staff shortages created by emigration. 

Pensions - and particularly pension age increases - have been an issue in Belgium, Croatia, Norway, Portugal and Russia and increases to working time have met with resistance in Austria and France.

EPSU affiliates in Greece and Portugal are still countering the effects of austerity while trade unions in Turkey continue to take industrial action despite the repression meted out by the authoritarian government there. Anti-trade union governments pose problems for EPSU affiliates in other countries, including in the Ukraine where the unions are active in defending their trade union rights and Hungary where unions have been taking action on pay and attacks on fringe benefits.

All these developments have been reported in EPSU's collective bargaining newsletter. This year is has covered news of negotiations on pay and conditions in over 30 countries with more than 300 articles that have also included information from surveys and reports at European and national level.

There are still plenty of gaps in our coverage and so please ensure we are kept up-to-date by sending your collective bargaining news to rpond@epsu.org.

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