(30 November 2017) EPSU and ETUI have published a unique book. It is the first to describe in detail the development of a European trade union federation. It has been written by Carola Fischbach-Pyttel, EPSU’s first General Secretary who led the Federation for two and a half decades. It tells the story of EPSU and of European trade union cooperation between public service unions over a period of 40 years.
It is important for workers and trade unionists to know the history of our struggles. We never got anything for free and have had to fight for many of our rights, from the right to strike, to holiday and sick pay, from our weekends and working week, to health and safety protection, not to mention our bargaining as well as information and consultation rights. These were won as the result of campaigns, mobilisations and strikes, as well as bargaining with employers and governments. We have fought for seats at the negotiating table at local, national and, yes, European level.
This book is about why our European trade union work is relevant for our day to day union activity. It sheds light on our mistakes and about how well we have done as unions at joining together in a common struggle for our members. The book is written in the context of the development of EU policy that has affected workers in the public services. It is therefore a history of how business interests, Member States and the European Commission have sought to open up public services to competition and how unions have positioned themselves in these debates.
Over the past 20 years the EU has been focused on building the Single Market, focusing on increasing competition at the expense of the interests of working people, or what we call Social Europe. The Single Market might break down barriers for businesses, but it does nothing to contribute to collective values and rights. The Single Market is not working people’s dream of a better world. It has mainly benefitted corporate elites and failed to provide an answer to the financial, economic, social and democratic crisis that followed the near collapse of the financial system in 2008.
But people will not put up with being ruled by markets and will fight back. There is much discussion about an EU pillar of social rights and new initiatives to strengthen workers’ rights. Our union history teaches us that this will only happen if we confront the ruling powers and fight for change.
We hope you enjoy the book.