(1st July 2016) Brexit was one of the main issues we discussed during a meeting with of the EPSU Vice-presidents. The consequences for working people of the majority vote in the UK to Leave the European Union are not clear yet. The first signs are that it will have a negative impact on the economy which will further undermine public services that lack resources for workers and service users. Other countries will be effected as the impact on trade and different sectors becomes clearer. We reject the narrow view of the nationalists that divides workers and people and fuels xenophobia and racism.
The EU has pursued mainly a corporate and conservative agenda of competitiveness, deregulation and more market, especially since the Barosso Commission. Trade unions in the UK and the EU have for many years argued that we need a real social direction for the EU to restore confidence in the European project and its institutions. We expect proposals that strengthen workers’ rights, address precarious work, lead to investment in public services, create quality jobs for young workers and bring improved living and working conditions for Europe’s people. This can be done in the EU. The reflection on the future of the EU opens a change to advocate our social agenda and the importance of the role of Public Services. EPSU will continue to defend workers’ rights in the UK, the EU and wider Europe. We will stand with UK workers defending our European social acquis. And we will work for a fairer Europe for all. We will have further discussions on this at the Executive Committee in November.
We considered the social situation in a number of countries. We condemn the brutal introduction of the changes to the labour code in Lithuania. The new Labor Code makes it easier to sack workers. It reduces compensation pay. Employers no longer have to provide a reason for the dismissal of workers. More overtime work is allowed, adding to the pressure on workers. The Code introduces a range of precarious jobs with the possibilities for fixed-term contracts, seasonal work and the use of temporary agency work. The unions are staging 24 hour protests against these changes which should come into force in 2017. We support the resistance of the unions to these measures. More precarious jobs and less worker protection are not the answer working people across Europe are expecting from our governments.
France. We noted with concern the attacks on the offices of the French unions of CFDT and CGT. We condemn this. In our democracy different opinions are to be debated and discussed, not decided by violence. We condemn last weeks’ proposal of the French government to prohibit demonstrations in Paris. We consider this a serious violation of the right to demonstrate freely, which is important for unions and other social organisations. We agree with the French unions that it is important to be able to express our views in debates, social dialogue as well as on the streets. Social dialogue cannot exist without rights to freedom of expression, assembly and to organize. For fundamental trade union and human rights to be effective and to have meaning, workers and others must be able to make use of them in practice.
The Vice-Presidents met to prepare the agenda for the Executive Committee of 8 and 9 November 2016, Brussels. We considered:
- Possible speaker
- The European pillar of social rights and other topical developments such as the work to stop CETA
- European semester and new steps in the European economic governance
- The procedures for the election of the new President and the Vice-President
- The importance of bringing the Finance Working Group together for the longer term.
- PSI Congress in 2017
- Forthcoming affiliation matters.
These issues will be part of the EPSU Executive Committee agenda. EPSU Vice-Presidents Isolde and Francoise met and were joined by Nick Crook of Unison, UK for Dave Prentis and EPSU General Secretary and Deputy General Secretary