As we close 2022, let’s give you a snapshot of EPSU achievements during the year and look forward to 2023. I wish you and yours a great New Year’s break and a successful 2023. Let’s hope for many victories for workers and the union movement. Good health to you, your families and friends.
EPSU and its affiliates in central government administrations concluded a major agreement with the employers on digitalisation which we have asked to be implemented as a Directive. This agreement is an inspiration for the current cross-industry negotiations on telework, that aim to improve on the 2002 telework agreement.
Health and care in the spotlight
While pandemic lockdowns came to an end early in the year, health and care workers remained under extreme pressure as staff shortages worsened. We were successful in getting EU recognition for COVID-19 as an occupational disease and the EU care strategy, published in September, took up many of the issues EPSU has been campaigning for, including decent pay and conditions for care workers. The scandal in the French care multinational ORPEA has shown how workers and the elderly suffer from the commercialisation of care. EPSU organises the unions in the company and showed solidarity with the French unions and the chair of the European works council (EWC) in the face of interference and intimidation by management. We also concluded a new EWC agreement in another French care company, Korian, and closed the year with a European demonstration in Brussels on 9 December that put the spotlight on the situation of health and care workers.
The trade union movement showed incredible solidarity with workers and their unions in Ukraine after the Russian aggression launched on 24 February. EPSU and many affiliates have been providing much needed humanitarian aid. The toll of 10 months of attacks by the Russian army has left so many dead and so much destruction, destroying also peace and security on the European continent.
The Russian aggression in Ukraine has caused an unprecedented energy crisis in Europe. While demanding short-term solutions, like a cap on gas prices and windfall taxes on profits, we have also continued our campaigning for public energy solutions and a right to energy. EPSU’s long-standing critique of liberalised markets for electricity and gas is now mainstream and a review of the EU energy market design is foreseen. These liberalised markets do nothing to deliver structural solutions to the climate emergency.
Our work on carcinogens and asbestos saw major advances this year with the European Parliament supporting our demands for very low occupational exposure limits for asbestos and an international scientific body recognising that the occupation of firefighter means exposure to carcinogens. Employers and governments must take measures to protect these workers. Our firefighters’ movement grew with several unions joining EPSU.
Fighting for better pay
The surge in energy, food and other prices has created a cost-of-living crisis across Europe. Many workers and trade unions across the public services have been negotiating hard to win pay rises for their members, resorting to industrial action where they face intransigent employers, as are the health, ambulance and central government union in the UK this week. The fight for higher minimum wages and stronger and broader collective bargaining coverage is set to be boosted as governments begin to implement the Adequate Minimum Wages Directive at national level. Meanwhile our long campaign for gender pay transparency saw a victory with the adoption of the gender pay transparency directive – an important step to closing the gender pay and pensions gap.
More Central and Eastern European unions joined our efforts to organise workers and we mainstreamed recruitment and organising in our Youth and Gender work.
We were all shocked by the allegations of corruption in the European Parliament this month, demonstrating the importance of EPSU’s campaigning with many other organisations to get stricter rules and more transparency on lobbying. The scandal also implicated the new leader of the International Confederation of Trade Unions, Luca Visentini, who has since been suspended . We expect the highest standards for ethical behaviour of trade union leaders.
Our work on all these issues will continue. EPSU stands in solidarity with the unions fighting for trade union rights and I think especially of our comrades in Belarus and Turkey. We continue our proud history of providing solidarity to unions fighting for higher pay and better conditions. 2023 marks 45 years since EPSU was established and recognised by ETUC which itself will celebrate its 50th anniversary as it holds its Congress in May in Berlin. Our global sister organisation, PSI, will organise its Congress in October while EPSU begins preparations for its Congress in June 2024.
And as we look ahead, please put Public Service Day, 23 June 2023 in your calendar – our action day to promote and defend the interests of public service workers across Europe.
We look forward to the New Year. The Future is Public, and we will be fighting for the many, not the few that put profits over people and our planet.