European Parliament – voting together for change, for workers’ rights and a fair Europe for all

Tuesday, 21 May, 2019

In the lead up to this week’s European elections we have seen what the extreme right is capable of in seeking to win votes. The publication of a video by the German media exposed the corruption of Heinz-Christian Strache, Vice-Chancellor of Austria and leader of the far-right FPŐ. In the same week Corporate Europe Observatory, Europe’s foremost researchers on the connections between corporations and politicians, demonstrated how extreme-right parties in the EU are linked with business interests.

Several of these parties, like the PVV and the Forum for Democracy in the Netherlands, have argued that their countries should leave the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. They do not accept the universal values embodied by the Court and the European Social Charter which is the basis of its work. These are values that are important for equality between women and men, to underpin workers’ rights, an independent judiciary and democratic institutions. These right-wing parties are not the parties that stand up for a Fair Europe for Workers. How to achieve this will be debated this week during the ETUC Congress in Vienna (#ETUC19).  

That respect for institutions and law is crucial for workers was underlined by the experiences of trade unionists from subsidiaries of the German-based healthcare multinational Fresenius that employs 300,000 workers across the world. This was the first meeting of a global trade union alliance that aims to negotiate an agreement that commits the corporation to respect union rights and collective bargaining. Our colleague from Brazil spoke about the problems with local management over respect for working time. But the employer can get away with violating regulations and failing to pay for overtime because recourse to the legal institutions under the right-wing government of President Bolsonaro has been weakened and verdicts and sanctions are not implemented. Trade unionists from the US reported on similar situations in California and Alabama. The company actively hires union busting firms and has been convicted for such activities but, again, sanctions are very weak or not executed. The National Labour Relations Board is dominated by supporters of Trump and it fails to stop such anti-union behaviour.

Also last week, the European Court of Justice stressed that employers are obliged to pay overtime and have to make sure that they record this correctly. Imagine if extreme right-wing parties came to power across the EU. Based on the experience in several countries they would favour the employers over workers. We can make sure this does not happen in the European elections this week. Our Congress in two weeks’ time will be an opportunity to discuss the outcome together and our next steps.

I wish everyone safe travel to our Congress in Dublin and we look forward to see you there.