Public investment central to recovery
(3 November 2014) Alarm bells are ringing on all sides over the slow down of EU economic growth, especially in the Euro-zone. The French forecasters of the Economic Observatory (OFCE) are the latest in a string of those who argue that the Euro-zone is on the brink of deflation and recession. They also make the telling point that such a recession would spill-over to the rest of the EU, Europe and beyond. As growth is also slowing down in Russia, Europe is in for a difficult period.
But something can be done. Public investment in public networks, energy, social infrastructure etc. is the way to stimulate growth. That was the message of the ETUC delegation to the Tripartite Social Summit on 23rd October. And governments and employers are starting to understand that something needs to be done. But in their view the investment is linked with promoting public-private partnerships and more corporate welfare as well as structural reforms.
EU Commissioner Timmermans will be responsible for part of that structural reform agenda called Better Regulation. As a minister he was co-author of the Dutch government's wishlist to slash EU red tape. The Dutch government insisted the proposed Maternity Leave Directive should be withdrawn. EPSU, ETUC and the European Women's Lobby are lobbying hard to keep it on the agenda and MEPs put questions to the new Social Affairs Commissioner who was evasive in her response. Timmermans is now responsible for judging if it should be withdrawn as former Commission President Barroso wanted. Also on Barroso’s wish list was abolition of the central government social dialogue committee. The Juncker Commission will have to do a lot to gain credibility with workers. An end to austerity is key. Public service workers are sending this message loud and clear this week, taking to the streets again to protest.
UK firefighters are defending their pensions and fire services against cuts and have just organised a four-day strike. Belgian affiliates have planned a series of protests against the cuts in public spending and reforms announced by the new government. A national demonstration on 6th November and a general strike on 15th December are the start of a longer campaign. The Italian public sector unions are also organising a national demonstration on 8th November to demand an #endtoausterity and for unblock collective bargaining while the Dutch FNV confederation is organising a national demonstration to protest against cuts in health and social services budgets, also on the 8th. I wish all unions a very good mobilisation. We need to keep the pressure on to demand and get change.
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Jan Willem Goudriaan
EPSU General Secretary