The first of May is a day to remember the victories of the workers’ movement and to highlight our demands for the alternative to the exploitation of women, men and our environment. This year our celebration is overshadowed by the aggression of the Russian army and war in Ukraine. We think of the fight of our Ukrainian comrades to defend their freedom and democratic values. And we are with all those workers across Europe who are attacked for expressing themselves on 1 May, as in Belarus and Turkey. We stand up for a vision for Another, a better Europe with more social justice; ending the extreme inequalities and bringing stronger rights for Europe’s working people and our trade unions. Europe’s trade union movement will engage for a Europe of peace and social progress. The war must end, Russian troops must withdraw, and war crimes must be investigated. We can then work on what should be a new security arrangement; one delivered through cooperation, social progress and celebrating human rights and democracy. This security is not delivered through the militarisation of all countries in Europe.
Making progress on a social Europe is to be part of that new arrangement. Addressing the insane wealth of some and the growing inequalities in our societies are part of that package. With attacks on trade union rights in many European countries, we need to re-affirm the human rights regime of the Council of Europe, so important for workers’ rights as well. The EU is still failing to address this.
Safe and health work a fundamental right for workers
On Workers’ Memorial Day, 28 April, we demand that safe and healthy work be recognised as a fundamental right for workers. We should not get injured at work, nor die of work-related cancers, because our employers want to increase profits and cut corners, speed up work or get more out of us. The Stop Cancer at Work campaign supported by EPSU is about a safe working environment. With the firefighters’ unions we will address this and including new norms for exposure to asbestos. The right to a safe workplace will be one of the issues addressed at the International Labour Conference of the ILO in early June. It brings together employers, trade unions and government representatives. PSI coordinates with the public service unions and the ITUC. The Conference will further consider violations of trade union rights. On 19 April the Belarusian government arrested several leaders of the BKDP, the independent confederation, and one of its member unions, SPB. This union brings together health workers that protested against the fraudulent elections in August 2020, the (lack of) pandemic measures and other workers related issues.
The European Works Council of the Orpea Group met 6 April. It agreed to work on several pressing issues such as fixed term contracts and psycho-social risks. A representative of EPSU supported the workers’ side. EPSU members representing workers in Orpea unions met 20 April. They discussed current issues and what is needed to strengthen workers’ rights to information and consultation and workplace democracy. The French unions who sign the sectoral collective agreement that applies to Orpea shared their concerns with comrades from other countries. A global agreement that legitimises the company behaviour without significant signs of change was seen as detrimental to workers’ interests. Read more about this below.
On behalf of Mette, the vice-presidents and all EPSU Staff, we wish you all a united and combative 1 May. Together we are stronger. Together we can achieve change for a better Europe – a different Europe.