|ETUC Secretary General Bernadette Ségol speaks to the press in the Brussels Wetstraat (Rue de Loi) in front of the EU Commission offices where the action was held.|
Last Wednesday, 29th February, the European Trade Union Confederation – ETUC organized a so-called “decentralized European day of action” for “employment and social justice” with the slogan "enough is enough" in the 27 EU countries.
|ETUC Secretary General Bernadette Ségol speaks to the assembeld protesters.|
The ETUC rejects a whole lists of trends since the onset of globalization: “the downward pressure on wages, the dismantling of social protection, attempts to make the labour-market even more flexible, the privatization of public services, the reduction of pensions, social exclusion, the unraveling of collective bargaining and the social dialogue, an unfair distribution of efforts. Workers are paying the high price of a crisis they did not cause, while the world of finance and speculators are coming out unscathed.“
|Protesters with the slogans "Fuck the Banksters" and "We can only lose our chains".|
The question is that since we entered a globalized world these questions are not so easy to solve. How do you for example compete with Chinese industries that have at their disposal an army of millions of very low-paid workers without any fundamental social rights? Should we close our European markets for Chinese products of should we accept that they also form part of the world and have the right to develop their economy based on cheap labour?
If Europe chooses to protect its economy against cheap products from other countries and to become a protectionist region this would not only affect China but many other countries that exports cheap products to Europe. In that case the European crisis will affect the whole world-economy with the result that the more vulnerable people will suffer.
|A carnavalesque protester of the Christian Trade Union Confederation.|
Regarding privatization, it is a true that privatization of public services is not a solution for cutting the growing costs. But in many countries public-service workers have higher wages and social benefits than workers in the private sector. Another problem is that a number of political parties in a number of countries use public services as a job-machine for their voters who have to be paid with tax-money.
|TYhe travelling protester.|
The reason for lowering the state pensions or increasing the age of retirement is the aging of the population. Fewer and fewer people have to provide for the pensions for more and more retirees. Should the young people pay more of their wages for the pensions of the retirees while on the other hand wanting to start a family and having to bring up their children?
|Portrait of a group of demonstrators from the French confederation Force Ouvrière.|
Of course workers did not cause the financial or banking crisis of 2008 like the Greek workers did not create the debt-mountain Greece now is confronted with. However, if the banks were not saved by tax-money and were let to go broke, as happened in the USA with Lehmann Brothers, a lot of citizens would have lost their savings and credits, that make the economy run smoothly, with the result of mass unemployment.
|The text on the banner is "you can not tighten your belts and drop your pants at the same time".|
The same can be asked about the Greek crisis. What is worse for Greek workers? The complete collapse of the Greek economy as a consequence of going broke or to accept financial support of the IMF and the Euro-zone together with reforms and an austerity plan to restart the economic engine of Greece again?
|"Socialist struggle. There is an alternative."|
On the other had ETUC warns for the overly ambitious deficit targets of the European governments by slashing public services and public investment, cutting wages and social benefits:
“The ETUC strongly opposes this ‘austerity’ approach. Austerity will take us down the road to ruin. Austerity will defeat itself and will result in weaker economies and higher, not lower, public debt:
- Austerity, especially when all member states simultaneously cut demand, will push the economy back into prolonged stagnation. This will cost Europe at least 4 million jobs, jobs that Europe desperately needs considering unemployment currently stands at 23 million.
- Austerity will also damage the growth potential of the European economy over the longer term. Persistent unemployment combined with precarious work, will downgrade human capital. Persistent depression will make business think twice before investing in a region that is unable to offer stable demand perspectives. In turn, reduced investment means productivity and innovation will suffer.
- Austerity will undermine the industrial basis of Europe. International business, facing a continent with an ailing economy, will relocate industrial investment to other regions in the world which provide dynamic demand perspectives.
- Austerity will prolong the sovereign debt crisis. Deficit cuts will be offset by the economic depression’s negative feedback effects on social spending and tax revenue. And while public deficits remain high, economic recession and deflation will push nominal GDP so that public debt as a share of GDP will continue to shoot up. Europe will try to get itself out of a hole by digging a deeper one.”
|An overview of the ETUC protesters in front of the EU Commission Building Berlaymont.|