EPSU Newsletter 20 February

Wednesday, 20 February, 2019

Inspiring actions

Public service workers have been very active over the last two weeks:

- Swiss union VPOD and its allies won a referendum to oppose water privatisation in Zurich. This just shows that if you ask the people then they will tell you that they don’t want their public services run by for-profit operators.
- In Germany, our affiliate ver.di finally reached agreement in Celenus, a subsidiary of French multinational ORPEA dealing with elderly homes and rehabilitation centres. After 202 days of actions, a strike, harassment and intimidation of union members and European solidarity, the union secured a pay increase and reinstatement of dismissed union representatives. Meanwhile, there have also been actions at regional level to put pressure on health and employers over the need for more staff and higher pay.
- Austrian affiliates, vida and GPA-djp mobilised and organised strikes for a new collective agreement in private social care and achieved a pay increase and positive working time arrangements.
- French energy affiliate CGT-FNME prevented the closure of customer service centres run by the main energy company, EDF, and defended the importance of public services in rural areas and urban centres.
- Our Belgian affiliates had an impressive general strike on 13 February to underline their demands for higher pay, better conditions, and investments in public services.
- And our Portuguese affiliates organised a successful strike in public services on 15 February where pay, career development, respect for working time, and the need for qualified and skilled workers were key issues.

You can follow these and other actions in EPSU’s bi-monthly collective bargaining newsletter.

European Labour Authority

It is not only in our workplaces that we stand up for workers’ rights and interests. The European Council and Parliament have reached a deal on setting up a new European Labour Authority (ELA). It should assist national authorities in applying and enforcing European labour law and fighting abuses in labour mobility, social security and the posting of workers. The ELA will also coordinate and support inspections. The agreement includes a safeguard for the autonomy of employers and trade unions to reach collective agreements and also for unions to take industrial action. The ETUC considers it a useful step forward in the fight against the abuse of workers’ rights, however, international road transport is excluded, one of the areas many abuses take place.

Public service loophole in working conditions directive

In the meantime the European Parliament has approved the compromise deal with the Council on the Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions Directive. For many workers there is progress. For hundred thousands of public service workers this is potentially a bad deal that needs to be repaired at national level.  

European elections

This is a clear case that underlines why a strong and progressive European Parliament is important for workers. We cannot expect conservative and liberal parties to defend workers’ rights, let alone extreme/far-right and nationalist parties. The ETUC will publish its election manifesto on 26 February and this will help all of us to get our voice heard.

Climate change

Climate and just transition will be among the issues raised by the ETUC and this chimes with the strikes for the climate that are taking place in several countries. A global strike is planned for 15 March, and, full disclosure, one of my kids is taking part along with many schoolmates. They have succeeded in putting climate change high on the agenda, with a sense of urgency about the risk of facing a world without ice caps and glaciers, and having to live with the consequences when the Paris scenario of 1.5 degrees is not reached. However, we can only feel dismay over the accusations that dark forces are behind their engagement, that they don’t think for themselves, there is no point to the strikes, or that the government knows best etc. We have all heard similar arguments against our demonstrations and strikes. At EPSU’s last Congress in Toulouse we said that “Climate change is the largest single threat to current and future generations.” The young people are demanding that we take this seriously.