Building trade union pressure to make more of the Commission proposals

Thursday, 16 January, 2020

The Commission launched a series of new policy consultations this week.  These cover fair minimum wages, the Just transition mechanism and funding for the Green Deal, the European Pillar of Social Rights and the road map on closing the gender pay gap through binding measures on pay transparency.

These are important and a response to the criticism from workers, social movements and trade unions that the EU is not delivering for people. The right wing response is that none of this is needed. This is sometimes in disingenuous ways like the German conservative who said he is against the Commission pushing for higher minimum wages as this would impact on the autonomy of the social partners. Yet, he fails to speak up when trade union rights and autonomy are weakened by conservative governments in EU Member States.

BusinessEurope, the voice of big business in the EU, likewise dismissed the need for higher minimum wages, warning how this would impact on competitiveness and employment. It shows that we will have to build effective trade union campaigns and work closely together to improve the proposals and get what workers demand. The Commission’s proposals completely fail to recognise that it will require public services to address the collective challenges.  We will look at the Commission initiatives and what they mean for public service workers. The consultation paper on minimum wages will be addressed in the EPSU collective bargaining work group 30 January. There are still countries that have not registered delegates. It is important to hear you voice.

I was with our Croatian affiliates this week to discuss the priorities of the Croatian Presidency and how we can work to influence them. These unions have demonstrated the power of working together. They successfully blocked the government’s reform of the pension system and raising the pension age to 67 and put up tough resistance to outsourcing by the government. They have already inspired others in their resistance to similar proposals. Despite their differences the confederations worked closely together. Ukrainian unions also understand the need to work together. They are united in their opposition to the government’s labour reforms. I encourage you to write to the Ukrainian government in support of the unions as we ask in our first general circular of the year.

And a for taste of something to come. In the week of 20 January there will be a new research report that will show that a major company is seeking to avoid paying its fair share of taxes. It is active in many EU countries.  It underlines the importance of public country by country reporting and the Croatian Presidency needs to make progress on this legislation. The European Commission in turn has to act decisively against those countries that have not established a register of the true owners of companies and funds. They were required to do so by the amended Anti-Money Laundering Directive by 10 January. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (you know: the journalists that revealed the Luxleaks, Panama Papers…) reports that very few countries have done so. We should not let corporations and the rich get away with it. If the new Commission wants to deliver a Europe that works for people, ensuring tax justice is key.