Thursday, January 26, 2012


The weather was not very supportive to the demonstrators who wanted to support the ETUC in its call to the European leaders to listen more to the European Trade Unions.
 European Trade Unions have been busy looking for an answer to the European crisis, as I noticed yesterday during a poor visited demonstration and a well organized press conference in Brussels. As European Trade Union Confederation it is of course hard to organize a demonstration in the streets of Brussels but if you do so, then you'd better do well or it could have a reverse result. Better no tiger at all than a paper tiger to paraphrase a Chinese proverb.

During the press conference ETUC general secretary Bernadette Segolene noted that due to the euro crisis an economic recession threatens. She rejects the unilateral approach of the European Council and Commission to the national debt reduction through spending cuts and more cuts. She opposes the new European treaty, with its strict rules for national budgets.

ETUC directives together with ETUC Secretary General Bernadette Ségol in the middle in front of the building of the European Council in Brussels.
TUC leader Brendan Barber cannot imagine himself that with these new rules in the hand Brussels can interfere within collective bargaining and labour conditions just to maintain the national budget balance. He is happy that his Prime Minister Cameron does not want to participate in the new European treaty, but unfortunately he does so with wrong arguments of protecting London City as global financial market. Hence, the TUC solidarity with the rest of Europe.

His colleague Bernard Thibault of the CGT French thinks the same way. He argues that the new Treaty has not been established by democratic rule. One did not listen to the unions. Ségol tells us the story that the Italian government has proposed to the unions to have a social dialogue by email. If this sets the tone for the next few years, then it does not look good for the future of the social dialogue. The ETUC therefore wants to make a wake up call for politicians for it becomes too late and the cuts cause an economic recession resulting in more unemployment that is already so high, especially among young people. Therefore, employment should be given priority over cuts.

ETUC secretary general Bernadette Ségol speaks with the press in the streets of Brussels on 25th of January
The ETUC calls on the European Union to invest in a sustainable economy, quality jobs, social justice, and to combat social inequality and poverty. It insists in a special effort for young workers who already are victims of the European crisis.

Employment should have a higher priority than state debt reduction to reassure the financial markets. But where will the money come from for jobs? If you do not reassure the financial markets, you can forget to get their money unless you want to abolish the free market for capital but this was not discussed.

So what should be done? It will be no coincidence that the representative of the German DGB presented a "four point program for change in Europe":
1. The European Central Bank ECB should be the Stability and Rescue Anchor ie the Lender of Last Resort. The Eurozone would become a transfer area or in trade union terms, a community of solidarity.
2. Agreement on cyclical fiscal policies and social justice. A higher debt is covered by higher taxes for major capital assets based on the principle that strong shoulders should bear the heaviest burdens.
3. Forward a comprehensive program, a "New Deal" for Europe to invest in future-oriented sustainable industry, particularly in the energy sector, services and education. The DGB proposes two models for funding. Anyone with a capacity of over € 500,000 (married over € 1 million) sets off 3% of its assets available for an interest-free period of 10 years and then get the money back, or it is given indefinitely. The money is managed by the European Investment bank.
4. Effective regulation of financial markets (banking and insurance) to guarantee long term stability of these institutions and their ability to absorb losses in equity.

In order to increase pressure on the politicians, the ETUC leaders decided to have a European Action Day on February 29, the day before the meeting of the European Council. The goal is that a social paragraph will be added to the new EU treaty. "Balanced budget are necessary but austerity alone exacerbates imbalances. A policy of stimulation of the economy through investments should be the solution of choice", says the ETUC.

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