(5 December 2023) Leaders of Europe’s public service unions expressed support for the ETUC demonstration 12 December in Brussels. The themes of the action, For a Fair Deal for Workers, and No to austerity are shared by the unions. Many public service workers are confronted with new restraints on finance for wages and public services as austerity policies start to be imposed again. And that is not what Europe needs. There is need for public finance for health, for care and other public services, for investments in digital public infrastructure and for the Just Transition to have an economy that does not rely on fossil fuels.
Many unions are engaged in actions for higher pay and better conditions. We are standing up to attacks on trade union rights. The EPSU Executive Committee expressed its solidarity with all those in action.
The Executive Committee addressed:
- The amendments of the affiliates on the Programme of Action. It followed the recommendations of the Congress Resolution Committee. Further discussion will take place on the energy paragraph.
- The work of the Constitutional Working Group to respond to proposals for amendments of the constitution. The Federation will get procedures for suspension of a trade union that violates our values. It will also become possible to revoke the mandate of a vice-President and to dismiss the President or General Secretary. Maybe the most significant amendment that will be proposed to Congress is to limit the mandate of the General Secretary to three terms. The Executive followed the recommendations of the Working Group
- Own Affiliates resolutions on Pensions and Palestine. Language on pensions was introduced in the Programme of Action while the Executive will consider a resolution on Palestine for Congress at its March meeting. A short statement on the current situation in Palestine was approved.
- The 4 Members of the Standing Orders Committee were confirmed. They come from Germany, Kazakhstan, Italy and Sweden.
- The President announced that she will not seek another mandate due to retirement. The vice-Presidents will be consulted. The General Secretary announced he will be available for another mandate.
- Congress will consider the finances for the next Congress period of EPSU. It received a report from the EPSU Finance Working Group. The situation is difficult in the long run. Members asked the Finance group to come with a mix of measures to address the situation.
- EPSU is disappointed that the cross-sectoral negotiations have failed. Now it is time for the Commission to propose the Central Government Administration agreement on digitalisation to the Council. While private sector employers see no need for legislation workers do, as do employers and unions in central government administrations.
- A lengthy discussion took place on the European Social Dialogue. Members underlined the discrepancy between lofty Commission papers and the actual funds set aside. The funds for participation are reduced. This hindered a sufficiently comprehensive and inclusive dialogue. The Executive agreed with those members that underlined that the Commission undermines the support of workers and unions for EU integration. The Executive Committee agreed to set up a working group on European Industrial Relations and Social Dialogue after the EPSU Congress.
- The proposal of the ETUC to consider wealth taxes to redistribute money is approved by the Executive even though concerns remain as many billionaires avoid contributing to welfare states and hide their money.
- The ETUC campaign for revision of the EU’s fiscal rules was supported. It is important that public finance and public spending is protected and the EU does not experience another round of austerity policies. This will undermine the social fabric, cohesion and growth perspectives in the EU.
- The EPSU input into the European semester 2024 was supported.
We looked at Economic and Social Policies such as:
- The implementation of the Adequate Minimum Wage Directive and the Council conclusions on strengthening social dialogue at all levels.
- The annual 2023 Labour Market and Wage developments report It contains a section on working time reduction. The report further underlines the importance of public services like childcare.
- Social Protection is a key part of Welfare States. The EU coordinates especially through the European semester and the rules of fiscal policy. EPSU argues in ETUC for the importance of strong and inclusive social protection systems. Long-term care is now considered part of social protection.
The European Parliament elections June 2024 were debated. A paper with key demands was considered and will be used in contacts with EU level political parties. It can assist unions at national level to argue for Social Europe. In the debates, reference was made to the extreme-right (ID) and conservative parties (ECR) voting against EU level social policy. Workers have little to expect from those parties.
Reports on the work EPSU does in National and European Administrations (Including for prison service workers), Local and Regional government (including for firefighters), Utilities (Energy, water, waste), Health and Social Services (including health care assistants, and the preparation of the social services social dialogue), Recruitment and Organising, Youth and Women were noted. The Women’s Conference adopted its Rome statement stressing the importance of public services the fight for equality and women’s rights for Europe’s public service workers.
We welcomed new affiliates in firefighting and culture from Bulgaria.
The EPSU Executive Committee took place 29 and 30 November 2023, Brussels. It was chaired by the EPSU President Mette Nord.