Green New Deal – Not Social yet

Thursday, 12 December, 2019

And then it was there – the Green New Deal as proposed by the European Commission. Commission President Von der Leyen introduced it by saying "Our goal is to reconcile the economy with our planet, to reconcile the way we produce, the way we consume with our planet and to make it work with our people." The Commission speaks of transformative policies, and we can expect a range of proposals from them over the next five years.  We must now work hard to ensure that the EU and Europe do indeed implement structural changes to our economic system, as unions and many other organisations recently advocated for in the streets of Madrid and of Santiago in Chile during COP25.  People and Planet must come before Profit, and more and more people and organisations are recognising this. EPSU and a growing group of organisations – several of which met at the Future is Public event in Amsterdam, and others which joined us this week in the European Parliament – are advocating for public investment and public ownership as the way forward. As long as the fossil resource burning and greenhouse gas producing industries can make money, they will. To transform this, and to ensure that millions of workers are not left behind, substantial funds need to be made available. The leaks on the Just transition mechanism which will be part of the Green Deal are not promising, they show that the Commission is still relying on the private sector to deliver. The Green deal to make the EU climate neutral in 2050 is a bold step forward, which underlines the fact that change will come from policy, taxes, subsidies, public investment and public research, and not from market mechanisms.

As I am finalizing this before the results of the elections in the UK are in, we will reflect upon the outcome in the next newsletter. We wish the people in the UK the result that will lead to the fundamental changes that are needed to improve lives for working women and men and our communities. And that will not be with Boris Johnson and his party.

The situation for workers in Ukraine has not been easy for some time now, and it continues to deteriorate. There were the Maidan events of February 2014, followed by successive governments, and then the struggles in Eastern Ukraine that killed around 13.000 and left 30.000 injured, according to the UN Monitoring Mission on Human Rights. This had economic repercussions and made life hard for many. Wages in Ukraine are among the lowest in Europe, especially in public services where much needed resources are diverted. Unions continue to be attacked as local and regional authorities try to wrestle control of buildings away from the unions. Local unions are faced with thugs, and have to resort to human blockades to prevent them from entering their properties as the police and the authorities turn a blind eye.

With the new government of President Zelensky, trade unions have come under renewed attack. The government is doing its best to force through the liberalization of public services, privatise several state owned companies and to reform the Labour Code. These reforms would shrink the power of the unions and worsen the situation further for workers. Labour inspectorates are weakened, and in the last newsletter we reported on the consequences of electricity reform for the unions. A personal response from one of our colleagues on the situation can be read here.  The Pan-European Council of the ITUC will consider the situation. EPSU has approached the Ukrainian authorities and made the European Commission aware of our concerns. We want the European Commission to put action behind its words. If the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements result in working people’s rights being undermined, they will lose support both in Ukraine and the EU. The unions have announced actions, and a first demonstration will take place 17 December.

This will also be the day of the national strike in health and care in France. It could become a day of wider mobilization as all Confederations have reacted with disappointment to the pension reform proposals announced by the French government on the 11th. Continuing with this wave of health and care worker discontent, Portuguese unions have announced strike action on the 20th. Clearly workers across Europe expect a different direction, with strengthened collective bargaining, pay rises to distribute wealth more equally, and a reinforced welfare state to address the needs of the many, not the few.