The EU-Brussels bubble and the reality for working people

Friday, 4 October, 2019

While the news media are full of reports on the hearings of potential European Commissioners, workers across Europe are engaged in actions to demand change, higher pay, better conditions and more staff. In Greece trade unions demonstrated against the new conservative government’s proposed labour reforms while in France EPSU affiliates continue with protests, demonstrations and strikes to demand improvements for firefighters and workers in elderly care and firefighters (8 and 15 October). Meanwhile in Bulgaria health unions are planning a protest on pay and staffing on the World Day for Decent Work. 

While little of this filters through to the hearings, they are nevertheless still important for us. The new Jobs (and Social affairs) Commissioner Nicolas Schmit, for example, announced several initiatives to ensure that all workers in the EU have a decent wage. He further referred to his ambition to improve access to child- and long-term care as part of the forthcoming Commission action plan to implement the EU Pillar of Social Rights. We look forward to work with him to make this happen.

Our members taking action at their workplaces and out on the streets know this requires public funding. This is the message in the protests. It was also the key message of several union representatives at the EPSU conference on the European Semester that took place earlier this week. This was a joint project with the ETUCE, the federation for workers in education whose members experience many of the same problems as health and other care workers, as prison guards, police and other public services workers. On the World Day for Decent Work we underline this message again. Governments and employers should invest in care to tackle staff shortages and ensure the respect and higher pay that workers in the sector deserve.

The long summer is over as the new political season gets underway, with plenty of events and meetings. We have seen very good participation in recent EPSU events with some excellent discussion on key topics such as the Green and Social Deal. There are opportunities for us even where the opposition is strong. Together we are stronger and that is why we supported the initiative for EU legislation on due diligence. It will help stop the corporations who think they can rob our environment, violate workers’ rights and avoid and evade taxes with impunity.  People have had enough of this kind of behaviour. The Commissioners-to-be should better understand this anger and act to address Europe’s inequalities and lack of resources for quality public services.