Get up, Stand up, Stand up for your Rights
(17 February 2015) Unions across the world are standing up for the #right2strike 18 February. This right is under attack by the employers in the ILO. The employers are supported by several governments which do not recognise independent trade unions. PSI is leading this across the world as especially public service workers see their rights curtailed. The employers find allies not just with dictators but also with the European extreme-right which would like to limit the role of trade unions and ultimately curtail the right to strike, And this to favour the interests of the employers.
In a recent debate in the European Parliament on the right to strike and the situation in the ILO a Flemish nationalist (NVA) made the point that the interests of employers are important. She is a member of the European conservatives (ECR) of which the British Conservative Party is also member. This party is attacking the automatic check-off system unions have negotiated with the employers in the past. The aim is to remove the trade unions as effective opposition to the conservatives and employers. That party also favours doing away with the right to strike for public service workers. The lines of the old Bob Marley song came to mind and are still a source of inspiration as it is by being active and standing up, by not giving up, ultimately by strikes that employers agree to decent pay rises for public services workers.
Pay rises will prevent deflation and restore demand was one of the issues we discussed in the Macro-economic dialogue with Commission Vice-president Dombrovskis and the Latvian finance minister, President of the EcoFin Council 16 February. Other issues raised were the need for direct public investment on the scale of the ETUC Investment plan and including in health and social services, and the importance of addressing tax fraud and tax avoidance by investing in tax administrations. The cut back in staff (close to 57.000 tax inspectors lost their job) needs to be halted if governments are to be taken serious over their commitments addressing tax avoidance and recoverings the billions in lost revenue. This is an issue EPSU will raise with the newly established European Parliament special committee that will investigate tax rulings and tax avoidance schemes. Getting this committee is a small success for EPSU as we supported it and it follows the letters I wrote to the Presidents of the S&D and the PPE groups asking them to stop their opposition to the inquiry committee. The trade union delegation further contested the mantra of structural reforms in the meeting. This reform mantra of employers, ECB and European Commission for more labour market flexibility will do little to create growth and it has a deflationary effect by depressing wages.
As we predicted the Eurogroup is putting tremendous pressure on the Greek government to fall in line. The ETUC delegation argued in favour of the Greek workers and people who clearly want another deal than the austerity package that has caused a humanitarian crisis. Flexibility is needed and the Eurogroup "rules are rules" is too simplistic especially if these rules did not work and are rejected. This is a test for European democracy.
Jan Willem Goudriaan
EPSU General Secretary