For a fairer Europe for workers and tougher health and safety laws

Wednesday, 10 April, 2019

The ETUC is calling for trade union delegations to join the European demonstration on 26 April in Brussels. There will be an EPSU contingent and we hope you will join us. Together we will promote our vision for the future of Europe and stress the trade union priorities for the European elections. The demo is part of a series of events in which trade unions will highlight their demands to governments, employers and the European institutions.

We can also do this two days later on International Workers Memorial Day (#IWMD19). This is the day when trade unionists throughout the world “remember the dead and fight for the living”. The focus this year will be on “Taking control – removing dangerous substances from the workplace.” Many illnesses are related to the exposure to carcinogens and almost 200,000 people die every year in the European Union as a result of workplace diseases, illnesses and accidents. The figures can be much higher in other European countries with health and safety accidents one of the largest causes of deaths in Turkey, for example. We will be calling on the new European Commission to set a target of zero workplace cancers and to have binding occupational exposure limits for cancer-causing substances. Other key trade union demands include EU legislation to prevent stress at work and ensuring that employers have measures and plans to prevent stress.

On International Workers’ Day on 1 May we again focus on the European parliament elections. Unions will underline that we want a fairer Europe, stressing our support for democracy and social justice for workers, our families and our communities. We will be speaking out against the racist, anti-worker and anti-Europe views of the nationalists and the extreme-right. Workers can expect little from such parties to help them deal with their daily problems of higher bills and inadequate pensions. Ultimately the right sides with the interests of Capital. It wants to subdue workers and their collective voice – the trade unions. The Orban government in Hungary and the Turkish President typify this approach. Hungarian unions will use Labour Day to speak up for democracy and social dialogue that are being undermined by the government and rally against Orban’s measures to make working time more flexible. And in Turkey, the legal action the President of the DISK trade union confederation shows just how important freedom of expression is to be able to defend workers’ interests. You will read more on it here.

Meanwhile, Dutch and Croatian unions are protesting against higher pension ages. The Croatian unions are organising a referendum to reverse the decision to increase the retirement age to 67 while the Dutch are mobilising for actions in May to prevent any increase. On 9 May our French affiliates will be organising a united strike, with one of the key demands respect for collective bargaining and the social dialogue. Social dialogue is very much the issue at stake in our legal case, EPSU vs the European Commission. We have now been informed that the public hearing will take place on 23 May, with both parties presenting their arguments.

The same week will also see the ETUC Congress and the European Parliament elections. The ETUC Congress Preparatory Committee met earlier this week to look at the last remaining issues and to find compromises. Our own Congress Resolutions Committee will debate some outstanding issues on 12 April in one of the final steps before the EPSU Congress in early June. We have also received several nominations for the positions of vice-presidents and these will be discussed at our Executive Committee on 15 May.

So these are two intense months for the European trade union movement and for EPSU. I look forward to your support and cooperation and hope to see many of you in Brussels on 26 April. Let us know if you can come.