European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen will deliver the annual State of the European Union speech next week (14 September), after the special Energy Council on the 9th. Workers expect both to put forward measures to assist with the cost-of-living crisis hitting workers and people across the EU and the rest of Europe. Trade unions in many countries are taking action to demand pay increases so that workers can pay soaring bills. EPSU supports these initiatives, but more is needed. We demand that governments rein in surging energy prices and look to the Commission and Council to address the fact that electricity and gas are public services that need to be regulated and cannot be left to competition in a market that does not work.
Von der Leyen should be talking about promoting collective bargaining and what the EU and Member States can offer to support to those struggling to pay their bills. The Commission and Council should call for a ban on disconnections and confirm the right to energy and a warm home. High profits and bosses’ high salaries can be taxed, and dividend payouts limited. We need programmes like the EU’s SURE employment support scheme to protect jobs and investment in our public services and bring about more equality, redistribution of wealth and power, and just transitions. We want an EU and a Europe that responds to workers’ and peoples’ needs.
We expect Von der Leyen to urgently address the critical lack of staff in health and care as we demanded of EU Health Ministers earlier this week. The European Care Strategy was published on Wednesday and we recognise that many of the issues we have consistently raised have been included. It is the start of a debate on the policies needed to give care workers the recognition, higher pay and better conditions that they deserve. Long-term care is a public good and there should be a fundamental right to care. Now we need the public funding and policies to limit the commercialisation and profit-making, that the Commission acknowledges are problematic.
Workers will keep mobilising in our workplaces and on the streets to secure the collective agreements and government policies that will benefit working people.