On 18 June 20 trade union activists and officers from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Turkey took part in a webinar on organizing and recruitment. It was third online meeting prepared and run by the EPSU’s recruitment and organising team.
Ending exploitation of workers with public money
Last week EPSU’s collective bargaining group discussed the position of the ETUC on fair minimum wages. Not all agree on the approach to take. National situations vary as does the assessment of how European rules would affect bargaining systems even if excluded from a possible directive. Our discussions will continue along with the debate in the ETUC.
We do agree, however, that all workers need a fair wage and that the best way to achieve this, is through collective bargaining. The importance of bargaining and of strong unions to protect workers’ interests and our health and safety has been clearly demonstrated in this pandemic.
Several colleagues in the bargaining group stressed that the Commission should come forward with proposals that require companies that receive public contracts financed by public money should have a collective agreement with representative trade unions in place. We do not want shareholders to be given free reign to exploit workers, and get paid public money for it. In fact, many companies support the union position as they also want good pay and conditions for workers but are undercut by cowboy firms that do not provide decent wages and do not apply collective agreements.
My reading of the European procurement directive of 2014 is that Member States and public authorities who award contracts should ensure that the successful companies comply with ILO conventions 87 and 98. Companies need to negotiate with unions and should not block workers from organizing in the union of their choice. Member States are being negligent if they do not enforce this.
Public authorities should not award contracts to the likes of Amazon Web Services, for example. Why should public money be paid to a company that dodges taxes and that ensures more wealth for its CEO Jeff Bezos (now worth 165 bn dollar, the GDP of a country the size of Hungary). Amazon fights with trade unions as it does not want to negotiate and conclude collective agreements and it opposes its workers that want to join a union. The European Commission is failing us here by not being crystal clear to Member States, public authorities and the corporations that such companies don’t deserve public contracts. We want a European Union that delivers for workers.
Luckily there are alternatives to enriching Bezos. Public authorities don’t have to outsource and privatise their services. Many municipalities are now (re-)discovering that in-house provision is cheaper and there is no need to boost the profits of Bezos and his ilk. It guarantees better quality and good pay and conditions to workers. Our seminar on remunicipalisation shows how this can be done and how unions can play a role and you can read more about it in the newsletter.
Demanding recognition for the role of the public sector and the workers that deliver our public services was part of our platform for 23 June, public service day. Not only applause for workers but funding and investment in services and good pay and conditions. Thanks to all who were active in supporting public service workers on 23 June. We can build from here to reinforce our actions in the coming months.
In an open letter, which has received the support of 600 organisations from more than 90 countries plus European and international organisations, EPSU calls on governments and the EU to take action to prevent the wave of ISDS cases that put at risk an effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On 3 June the European Commission launched the second stage consultation on potential legislation on fair minimum wages. EPSU convened an online working group on 19 June to discuss the key issues and the draft response to the consultation from the ETUC. There were 29 participants from EPSU affiliates in 15 countries.
23 June is a day of celebration. Every year the work of public service workers for the community is celebrated on this day. With the ongoing pandemic, we thank public service workers for keeping our societies going during a very difficult period.
Over 30 representatives from 14 countries met online last week (18 June) to debate how to bring public services back in-house. The meeting was part of a project involving EPSU and being coordinated by the trade union-backed Syndex consultancy.
Together with the European Federation for Retired People and the Elderly (FERPA), EPSU expressed disappointment that the European Commission’s Recovery Plan for Europe does not address the havoc the pandemic has caused for the elderly and elderly care workers.