Vaccination is being rolled out across most of Europe but some countries, like Montenegro and Armenia, are lagging seriously behind. Access to vaccines is difficult and costly and more needs to be done to tackle this. That is why EPSU with the ETUC and PSI continues to call for the waiver of the intellectual property rights on the vaccines. This would allow more countries to produce more. As I have argued earlier, countries could have taken control of production but ideological blinkers prevent governments from going for such solutions. They are now having to scramble to get supplies and vaccination plans are falling apart when the private sector does not deliver. For example, companies have repeatedly delivered less than promised in Belgium. These blinkers meant that governments across Europe and the EU Commission are hindered in developing comprehensive and effective policies, not just on vaccines but in areas like the Adaptation Strategy and the Industrial Strategy of the EU.
Industry and Public Services
This week (23-26 February) is taken up with the so-called EU Industry Days. They focus on industrial challenges, opportunities and a dialogue with all and at all levels with the aim to deliver growth, jobs and innovation. However, they are missing a key element – for industries and economies to flourish you need quality public administration to deliver a range of services such as environmental protection, tax administrations and the judiciary.
High quality industrial development goes hand in hand with public services in health, education, elderly and child care to allow our societies to respond to the many challenges. Industry depends on public infrastructures from ports, roads and rail to electricity, water and waste. Public research gives a boost to innovation and public funds help fledgling industries to get off the ground. Public enterprise at municipal and national level makes sure all in society can benefit, and not just a few. Public enterprise needs to be developed at European level, for example to promote repair and reuse.
A comprehensive Industrial Strategy would recognize and foster this. The same for the Social Economy, this vibrant group of organisations and companies that operate on a different logic from profit maximization and are active in services like health and care and others where many members of EPSU work. Before the end of the year we can expect a Social Economy Action Plan in which we want to see a focus on workers and the promotion of collective bargaining. Again, the social economy can only be built on the basis of strong public services. With our action day on 23 June we focus on and promote the role and place of public services in our communities and our countries and the workers that deliver them. The Future is Public.
Slovenia and social dialogue
Our Slovenian unions are still in conflict with their government. It has side-lined the social dialogue and tries to marginalise the trade unions. This is part of the tendency of the government and the prime minister Janez Janša to impose an authoritarian regime in the country. He seeks to silence critical voices in the media. Our comrades of the European Federation of Journalists have demanded that European leaders speak out against attacks on the media and to refrain from such attacks themselves. The Council of Europe’s Media Freedom listing of daily attacks against journalists makes for chilling reading. It is a small step from attacks on critical journalists to attacks on critical trade unionists. The European Commission has responded to Slovenian unions that it supports the social dialogue and that the unions should be consulted on the recovery and resilience plans in Slovenia. Trade union rights, collective bargaining and social dialogue are part of democracy. That needs to be recognised in the Pillar of Social Rights Action plan due to be published next week (3 March).