EPSU's Executive debates crisis and attack on public sector workers

{(8 June 2010)} The economic crisis and attacks on public sector workers' pay and conditions was a key debate at the EPSU Executive Committee in Brussels on 27 and 28 May. EPSU staff gave a presentation outlining the current economic situation and providing an overview of the pay and job cuts and freezes being imposed across Europe. At least 12 EU Member States and five non-EU countries in Eastern Europe were facing substantial cuts in public services with public sector workers the target of pay cuts of anything up to 50%. The presentation also explained European Commission proposals for greater economic governance and surveillance and how this was a narrow focus on fiscal consolidation that ignored issues like social justice and the need for public services not just to play a key role in the recovery but to provide vital support for the thousands of citizens worst affected by the recession. In the discussion that followed a wide range of speakers provided further detail of the impact of the cuts in their country and the extent to which governments had ignored any collective bargaining and social dialogue procedures and pushed through attacks on pay and conditions. It was also clear that governments were drawing up and announcing their cuts policies at very short notice, making it very difficult for trade unions to respond. A particular concern for a number of EPSU affiliates was the degree to which they had to fight back against biased reporting and misinformation about public sector workers’ pay, conditions and pensions. The public was being presented with a distorted picture of what public servants were paid and this was making it more difficult to mobilize support for trade union campaigns against the cuts. Although many countries were being affected by the crisis, it emerged that trade unions in a minority of countries were able to maintain a dialogue with public employers and even jointly discuss how to use public sector resources in response to the crisis. At national level unions were planning public sector strikes in Romania and Spain. Further strike action was likely in Greece while other forms of action were also planned in Italy, France and Portugal. There was a discussion about the possibilities of action being coordinated with a view, in particular, to target the 17 June meeting of the European Council that would be discussing proposals for increased coordination of economic governance. There was a feeling that it would be difficult to organize an event or series of events in the time available. However, there was support for a coordination of press work just before the Council meeting. {{[Read our press release->art6547]}}

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