As the year draws to a close…

Thursday, 19 December, 2019

The year ends with the news that Boris Johnson’s Conservatives have won a large majority in the UK parliament. Leaving the EU was his central pledge and this will now happen by 31 January next year. He wants a trade agreement by the end of 2020 but has failed to make a guarantee on workers’ rights. EPSU and the ETUC will aim to influence the European Commission’s mandate to negotiate a trade deal and together with the UK and Irish unions we will work to have the Good Friday agreement respected and promote workers’ rights.

In a busy 2019, EPSU:

  • elected a new President, Mette Nord, at our Congress in June and adopted an ambitious programme of action along with our Breaking with the Past pledge to work for gender equality;
  • engaged in many initiatives calling for action to stop violence against women and promote the new ILO Convention 190;
  • joined the social movement that pushed for action to address climate change, putting People and our Planet over Profits;
  • signed a landmark agreement with French multinational Korian to establish a European works council, the first in the elderly and disability care sector;
  • engaged with PSI in the global trade union alliance in Fresenius, the German care company to defend workers’ rights;
  • pushed tax justice up the European and global agenda so that it played a role in the European Parliament elections and pledges of the new Commission;
  • welcomed our first affiliate from Uzbekistan;
  • restarted the gas social dialogue;
  • assisted Australian trade unions in defeating anti-union legislation;
  • sent observers to three trials where Turkish comrades had to defend themselves for being trade unionists;
  • played a role in two important European directives on work-life balance and whistleblower protection but were disappointed in the potential exclusion of public service workers in a third directive on transparent and predictable working conditions; and
  • in the General Court decision against us on the information and consultation agreement in central government, noting the betrayal of the European social partners by the European Commission.

At national level many of our affiliates had successful pay and other agreements that we recorded in our collective bargaining newsletter. Just a few of the key actions included:

  • Croatian unions’ successful campaign against pension age changes;
  • Ukrainian unions’ protests against labour law reform;
  • French workers’ mobilisations against pension reform;
  • French care workers striking in October, November and December over pay and staffing; and
  • health workers in Northern Ireland also striking on 18 December over pay and staffing.

We also welcomed new colleagues in EPSU to reinforce our communications team and strengthen our capacity to assist unions with organising and recruitment.

What we achieved is the work of many and I thank everyone for their engagement. As the festive season gets underway we should remember that many public service workers will continue to be on the frontline. They guarantee water, energy and waste services, fire and flood protection, deliver health and care services and public administrations to run our cities and countries. Much health and many successes to you. I wish you all a good holiday and a very good start to 2020.