Sunday, August 12, 2012


Mexican workers on a truck.

The European Trade Union Confederation ETUC proposes to the European Commission a “European Social Compact”. Important elements of that Compact are:

- Collective Bargaining and Social Dialogue as an integral part of the European Social Model guaranteed at the EU and national level.

- Economic governance for sustainable growth and employment by making the European Central Bank ECB the lender of last resort thus enabling it to issue Eurobonds. Growth programs adapted to each country should be discussed, agreed and monitored with social partners. The ETUC asks for extra resources, raised from improved use of the European structural funds, the European Investment Bank, project bonds, and an adequately engineered financial transaction tax should be allocated to social and environmental purposes. Stop EU pressure to liberalize public services that are a national responsibility.

- Economic and social justice meaning redistributive and graduated taxation on income and wealth, and the end of tax heavens, tax evasion, tax fraud, corruption and undeclared work. Action against speculation, effective measures to secure social equal pay and equal rights for work of equal value for all, policies to end the pay gap between women and men, wage-setting to remain a national matter and to be dealt with according to national practices and industrial relation system, negotiations between social partners at the relevant level, the statutory minimum wage should be increased substantially and harmonization of the corporate tax base and minimum rates of taxation for companies.

This is what you can call an impressive shopping list of classical trade union wishes. It looks like there is no financial crises at all, that states are not in a deep debt crisis, that financial markets don’t trust anymore some Euro-countries, that there have been no global changes and that a new world wide economic crisis is threatening everybody to lose his or her job.  Reading all these wishes you wonder if European trade unions are able to understand what is going on and what should be the priorities in these times.

What to do against unemployment if all classical measures like more government spending and maintain the status quo of the social welfare state do not work anymore? Continue on this road by states to make more debts, which however is not accepted anymore by the financial markets?  It is true that more and severe cuts in the national budgets of the Euro countries do not work either. On the contrary these budget cuts threaten to worsen the economic crisis and therefore the unemployment rates.

Is it not time that the European unions take a serious look to what is really happening and put as a first of all and everything priority employment? May be there are measures that will help to get more people into work so they get back a minimum of dignity? May be one should think about accepting less wage raises or less growth of social services in exchange for more jobs? May be some measures make the European economy more efficient and competitive so the economy will recover and strike new paths? Is that not also a question of solidarity?

Whatever these measures should be, it has become clear these days that the classical trade union positions don’t give an answer to the economic and financial crisis and to the global changes which by the way are creating chances for more workers than ever. For the first time in history millions of poor workers are now involved in global economics. The ETUC should this consider also. Most probably global change has its price and may therefore affect the prosperity of European workers but isn’t this not also a question of solidarity, a classical trade union value? 

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