We have had enough of the continuing discrimination against women on the labour market, of the gender pay and pensions gaps and violence at home and at the workplace. That was the message from the trade union activists – women and men, young and old – at our conference in Prague last week. They discussed the policies and actions to eliminate gender inequalities and discrimination. EPSU will challenge the lack of political commitment of employers and governments to make progress and do what is necessary. International Women’s Day on 8 March will be an important moment to make our joint struggle visible and there will be many actions by our affiliates.
Representatives of the steering committee of the EPSU youth network were also in Prague, contributing to the conference and also meeting separately to discuss their contribution to preparation for the EPSU Congress. Another group of young trade union leaders, participants in an education programme of the European Trade Union Institute, visited the EPSU office on 14 February. They had many challenging questions about how we as European Federations manage to balance different interests, but also how we mobilise to achieve our goals. It was worrying that several did not see the work of their union in Europe and in the Federation reflected in the information they get from their unions. This undermines the support for the European work. We also discussed the impact of austerity and the need for investment in public services.
That such investments are needed is shown by the actions of care workers across Europe. In country after country they have been mobilising to address low pay, lack of staff and the impact on the quality of care. EPSU sent messages of solidarity. We further wrote to the Turkish government in response to the arrest of an executive committee member of KESK, the Turkish public service confederation and to the mayor of the Croatian town of Sisak who refuses to bargain with the unions organizing in its municipal services.
Labourstart is supporting the Georgian unions who are campaigning for investment in labour inspection and stronger controls. The statistics are shocking – since the Labour Inspectorate was abolished in 2006, 460 workers have died and another 796 have been injured, and those numbers are rising. Despite the commitments under the Association Agreement with the European Union, the government has not established a real Labour Inspection service, believing that workers protection is bad for business. These are key issues for workers and we expect action from the European Union. Unfortunately, the recent EU Balkan Strategy does not make workers’ and trade union rights a central issue.
And this lack of a progressive social policy preoccupied our colleagues at the extraordinary meeting of EPSU’s National and European Administration committee on 12 February. We discussed the European Commission’s continuing denial of information and consultation rights to workers in central government administrations and how we can react. One thing is clear. The Commission’s attitude undermines support for the European Union in the EU and beyond. It exposes the fact that the principle that all workers should have information and consultation rights, as most recently stated in the EU pillar of social rights, is not worth the paper it is written on.