The Porto Social Summit of 7 May will see employers, unions and the European institutions confirming their support for the EU Pillar of Social Rights and implementation of the social action plan. This is welcome but the same employers, primarily represented in BusinessEurope, are working hard to block progress on strengthening collective bargaining via the adequate minimum wages directive. They are also lobbying to prevent legislation on tax avoidance or to increase corporate taxation and so contribute to undermining the funding for public services and the welfare state. This prevents people from realising their human rights and so how credible are the promises of employers and governments? The many cases of employers dodging rules and supporting union-busting undermines any confidence in the support expressed by business leaders. Some go to extreme lengths, as we discovered recently when it was revealed that the Residenz care company in Germany, a subsidiary of the Orpea multinational, is hiring private detectives to carry out surveillance on the works council. And these companies are sanctioned neither by their peers nor by the governments that keep awarding public contracts to them. Some governments, like that of Romania, are similarly guilty of introducing measures to weaken unions.
Another May Day in lockdown
For the second year in a row, many of us celebrated May 1st online or in small groups and events. Some took to the streets, as did our Turkish comrades of KESK and DISK, who respected the regulations and demonstrated peacefully but were still confronted by the police. Turkish workers have been facing a complete lockdown for some weeks but the government has failed to provide adequate income compensation for those left without work. And so the pandemic continues its devastating spread, most shockingly now in India. It is a stark reminder of what people, and particularly workers in health and care, are facing if governments fail to control the pandemic.
Ensuring vaccines for all
And while the rate of vaccination is speeding up in the rich countries that have bought up most vaccines, other countries, often with limited resources, are left out. That is why EPSU, PSI and the broader trade union movement are pushing for the waiver of intellectual property rights for vaccines to allow them to be produced in more countries and more cheaply. The pharma companies are fighting tooth and nail to prevent this, mostly with government support. EU governments and the Commission are playing a very negative role here by blocking the waiver and so signing the Right2Cure European Citizens’ Initiative is a small contribution we can all make to pass the message to the Commission that people come first.
The pervasive influence of corporations on the European Commission and many governments was exposed last month when leaked documents revealed how the French government’s line on corporate taxation and public country by country reporting (PCBCR) was dictated by the lobby of the French companies and the MEDEF employers’ organisation. EPSU and many others in a broad coalition in the European Parliament and the Portuguese Presidency are working hard to advance on the PCBCR directive and pressure on EU governments key to getting this passed.
Building union power
To confront the tactics of companies and the governments that support them, we need to build our power. EPSU continues to support recruitment and organising initiatives, to convince more workers to join unions and to strengthen our voice. The EPSU guide, Building the union, winning for members, has been translated into many languages including most recently Armenian and Georgian, ensuring that it reaches more workers and supports our efforts to grow our unions.
More public funding, less market
The European Commission keeps rolling out initiatives like its Industrial Strategy, that reveal a neoliberal ideology that sees no role for public enterprise for example to create Clouds nor for strengthening regulatory agencies. This is reflected also in its various consultations on health policy, such as on an EU health data space and on Crossborder Health Care – Evaluation of Patients’ Rights. While we all want patients’ rights to be strengthened and especially their right to universal health care to be guaranteed, there is an underlying logic of promoting an internal market for health care. The focus is not on increasing the funding for our health and social care so that staffing shortages can be solved and pay and conditions improved, nor on addressing the health inequalities that were so bitterly confirmed during the pandemic. We want something better and different and 23 June the European Public Service Action Day will be one moment to show together that we want change for the many, not more privileges for the few