Public service unions address cost-of-living crisis

EPSU Executive Committee 25-26 October 2022

(25 October 2022) Leaders of Europe’s public service unions discussed the impact of the cost of living crisis and the impact on workers. Rising energy prices and high inflation eat away purchasing power with many workers facing dire problems, and facing hard choices. That is why we endorse the 6 points plan for urgent action by the governments. 

  • We seek pay increases through collective bargaining.
  • Unions work for government support for people in need who face high energy bills, have difficulty putting food on the table or paying the rent. For EPSU the right to food,  a warm home, energy and water are human rights and must be protected. EPSU works with the Right to Energy Coalition to stress our demand for a ban on disconnections that is part of the ETUC plan.
  • Price caps especially on the cost of energy bills are an immediate solution. And we need a tax on excessive profits of energy and other companies. Dividend payments can be stopped and priories salaries of workers.
  • ETUC asks for national and European anti-crisis support measures to protect incomes and jobs in industry, services and the public sector, including SURE-type measures to protect jobs, incomes, and to finance social measures to cope with this crisis and just transition processes.
  • A longstanding demand of EPSU to reform the functioning of the EU energy market is getting more prominence, recognising that energy is a public good.  Public investment is needed to tackle the root causes of the crisis, such as the under-investment in green energy and the consequences of privatisation.
  • And unions needs to be part and parcel of national plans through the social dialogue mechanisms which have proven to work well.

The unions discussed the action and mobilisation plan with Esther Lynch, ETUC deputy general secretary. EPSU unions are fully part of those efforts with public service unions negotiating higher pay in many countries, engaging in strike and other actions and joining the larger mobilisations. The EPSU Executive Committee endorsed Esther’s nomination to ETUC General Secretary with an ovation, wished her and the team success and looked forward to work with ETUC to promote public services and the interest of public service workers in Europe.

The Executive Committee welcomed three new unions organising firefighters and other security workers. The Federazione Nazionale della Sicurezza CISL (FNS CISL), the Lithuanian Federation of Law Enforcement Officers (LTPF) of LPSK, and the Trade Union of Professional Firefighters of Slovenia (SPGS), member of the Slovenian Association of Free Trade Unions (ZSSS).

Other decisions taken:

  • The midterm budget 2022 and the budget for 2023 were approved
  • Some unions were suspended for not-paying affiliation fees
  • We agreed the nominations for the EPSU committees working on the Congress 2024, the agenda for Congress and the general outline of the Programme of Action for 2024-2029. This will be further developed and discussed in the Resolutions Committee. The committee will include a representative of the youth network.
  • We endorsed the points on public services we like to see reflected in the ETUC Action programme and the outline for the delegation which will include representatives of leadership, political leadership of the different constituencies, youth representatives, sectors and must be balanced between men and women.

Members noted the work that is done on the different issues and in the different sectors:

  • We are considering how we can best use the collective bargaining provisions of the recently adopted Minimum Wage directive and develop within ETUC our proposals for economic policy and the European Semester. We reject that current inflation is caused by wages. Apart from rising energy prices as a driver for inflation, there is evidence that high profits are fuelling inflation.
  • Major work is ongoing on organising and recruitment and the plans for 2023 were endorsed
  • Youth work has increasing participation and the youth network looks forward to contribute to Congress
  • The Women and Gender Equality committee continues its work on mainstreaming, follows important European files like the gender pay transparency directive and prepares for the Women’s Conference 24 November 2023 (Rome)
  • The Executive discussed the way forward for the intersectoral negotiations on telework and the agreement with the employers in Central government administrations which has been submitted to the Commission to be implemented as a Directive.
  • We looked at current energy prices and developments and stressed the importance of just transition, maintaining the ambitions to deal with Climate change and respect the Paris Agreement and to reform the European electricity and gas market, starting with the recognition that the provision of electricity is a public service.
  • The union leaders considered the work in the municipal and regional sector, the work of the firefighters network on reducing Occupational Exposure Limits for asbestos and encouraged the work on remunicipalisation.
  • They had a long discussion on the work on health and social services, noting the declaration of the Pan-European Conference, and endorsing the action on 9 December at the Council of Ministers for Health in Brussels. EPSU wants that addressing staff shortages becomes a European priority and that governments understand the need for urgency as has been stated by the WHO-Europe.
  • We looked at the work on social services with several European Works Councils, the problems for the social dialogue committee and the failure of the French care company Orpea. The Executive endorsed the campaigning of EPSU to stop the commercialisation and profiteering of care. That is further the input into the 29 October Global Care Day.

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