EPSU President Mette Nord (Fagforbundet) spoke on ETUC positions on trade union renewal at the ETUC Congress, 23-26 May 2023 in Berlin, Germany
(31 May 2023) A large EPSU delegation joined hundreds of other trade unionists from across Europe to celebrate 50 years of struggle for Europe’s workers and people. We ended the ETUC Congress with the election of a new team and the adoption of an action plan titled ‘Together for a Fair Deal for Workers in Europe’. It recognises the contributions of public service workers, the need to fund our public services, and so much more. EPSU gave its full support to the Secretariat, including General Secretary Esther Lynch and President Wolfgang Katzian.
Jan Willem Goudriaan, General Secretary, EPSU, highlighted the report of activities as a pivotal moment in the history of the ETUC. He expressed EPSU's support for amending the constitution to ensure better representation of trade union youth in the ETUC. Goudriaan recalled the emergency resolution passed at the previous Congress, condemning the European Commission for its attack on the European social dialogue. He provided an update on the ongoing court case and the persistent lack of clear criteria and transparent processes for handling social partner agreements. Goudriaan also referred to the European Commission's recent obfuscation, resulting in delays in addressing the agreement between EPSU and employers in central government administrations regarding digitalisation. In conclusion, he called on the Congress to rally behind the striking Finnish workers in private social services.
Organise, organise, organise for stronger workers’ voices
EPSU President Mette Nord (Fagforbundet) spoke on ETUC positions on trade union renewal, mentioning the successes of the unions and the EPSU organising team. Urging the ETUC Secretariat to campaign to defend and promote public services, she made the link with building union power for bargaining and defending workers’ rights, ending with a strong “Organise, organise, organise.” Throughout the Congress, numerous delegates from public service unions and confederations echoed Nord's call for an ETUC that advocates for workers in public services and actively campaigns against privatization and liberalization.
Gender-transformative public services – investment and funding
Francoise Geng (CGT-Sante-Action Social), EPSU Senior Vice-President, spoke of gender-transformative public services, the repression of women in Iran and Afghanistan and the right to abortion. Thomas Kattnig (Younion), EPSU Vice-President, addressed the need for reform of the economic governance rules if we want to achieve meaningful investment in public services; utilities; green and digital transformations; and just transition.
Anti-fascism, youth and Ukraine
Sylvia Buehler (Verdi) took the stage on the dangers of fascism, past and present, and Congress made its position very clear: “Siamo tutti anti-fascisti.” Alina Tankeliun (Lithuanian Trade Union of Health Care Employees) brought delegates to their feet in support of the constitutional amendment on the youth quota which was later adopted with only one delegation voting against. Ivanna Hcrapko (State Employees Union of Ukraine) addressed the situation faced by workers in Ukraine and emphasized the significance of our trade union movement's values, as outlined in the new Charter. Her remarks garnered a resounding response of support and solidarity.
Amendments, women’s rights and more
There were many other EPSU comrades speaking like Yolanda Gil (CCOO-FSS) of the ETUC Youth Committee and EPSU Vice-President in the Health and Social Services Committee. She introduced and defended the youth quota, calling all young delegates to the stage. The youth delegates celebrated an overwhelming victory as only one delegation voted against. Gloria Mills (Unison), President of both ETUC and EPSU’s Women’s Committees, gave an equally powerful speech in defence of women, women’s rights, the right to abortion and above all the crucially important role of public services for women and equality. Paola Panzeri (EPSU) Vice-President, ETUC Women’s Committee spoke of the far right’s attack on women’s rights and the ETUC Women’s Committee’s priorities for the years to come, such as addressing violence against women and getting EU member states to ratify and implement ILO Convention 190. And these were just some of the speakers - there were many delegates in the confederations from EPSU affiliates who spoke for public service workers.
Jan Willem Gourdriaan once again took the floor to express his support for a resolution proposed by CGIL, which had garnered backing from numerous organizations. The resolution aims to establish new rules concerning Economic governance, and the ETUC will actively mobilize in support of these new rules. The trade union movement in Europe made it unequivocally clear that it will fiercely resist any new austerity measures. Such measures would have detrimental effects on public service workers and the general population of Europe, impeding progress towards just green and digital transitions. Moreover, the resolution acknowledges the importance of adequate staffing levels to address burnout and stress, ensuring quality health and care. It outlines a series of planned actions that will gradually build up towards a larger movement in the autumn.
Other emergency resolutions expressed solidarity with Iranian and Afghan women facing repression; with the workers and people in Cuba facing the renewed boycott by the US; and with the workers and people facing the war in Ukraine. Unions need to be part of the reconstruction of their country. Other solidarity resolutions condemned the market ayatollahs of the Commission forcing the unbundling of railway companies and defended the right to strike under attack in Belgium and the UK. Congress condemned the Qatar government for not making more progress in the implementation of labour reforms or allowing for independent unions. We expressed our solidarity with Turkish unions over the many victims of the 6 February 2023 earthquake.
EPSU organised a fringe event on psycho-social risks together with ETUC and Eurocadres. We argued for a European directive and Alina Tankeliun gave a powerful personal testimony of what it means to work with stress as a nurse and juggling with staff shortages. We joined another Eurocadres fringe event on Artificial Intelligence at the workplace, with Marco Ouwehand, President of EPSU’s Standing Committee on National and European Administrations, introducing the agreement on digitalisation reached with the Central Government Administration employers. We continue to demand that the agreement is transposed via legislation.
There were many emotional moments: the solidarity actions for workers in Ukraine (victims of the Russian aggression war); Turkey (victims of the earthquake); Belarus (jailed trade union leaders); trade union speakers from Palestine, Tunisia, Myanmar; debates with politicians and employers; and the contributions of European Commission President Von der Leyen and Commissioner for Social Affairs Nicolas Schmit.
Dave Prentis, President, PSI and Daniel Bertossa, Assistant General Secretary, PSI were guests of EPSU at the Congress.
The ETUC Congress took place from 23-26 May 2023 in Berlin, Germany.