International Workers Memorial Day : Europe’s public service workers protest and organize for respect, improved pay and democracy at work
Previous EPSU newsletters have shown that public service workers are taking the lead for better pay. Actions are continuing with many unions currently involved in pay disputes in:
- Romania: health and social service workers are demanding a pay rise and the right to negotiate collective agreements;
- Portugal: unions are involved in pay negotiations in the AdP water company, with the STAL trade union organising strike action as the employer is not forthcoming;
- Netherlands: the FNV trade union has kicked off its campaign to support pay negotiations in central government with a huge rally of prison guards and others;
- Spain: protests continue over pensions and jobs;
- Belgium: our affiliates representing federal government workers are organising strike action on 30 April against the cuts in services;
- France: EPSU affiliates are joining up for a national day of protests and strikes on 22 May for more pay after years of freezes.
That actions pay off was shown by our German colleagues in ver.di. As a result of a series of strikes and demonstrations it got one of the best results in years. And I bet that most if not all of those who complain about strikes and trade unions won’t reject the pay increase when it appears on their pay slip. In Denmark, meanwhile, the first result has been achieved in the public sector negotiations with a deal covering certain groups of workers in the regions. Other unions continue to negotiate and as I write no deal has yet been reached for the municipal and state workers. A strike is still on the cards.
And other affiliates are equally active. Ukrainian nuclear workers are seeking improvements in their working conditions and demand a long-term plan from the government for the sector. And staying in the Ukraine, we have written to the country’s Prime Minister to demand an end to the violence against local union branches. Thugs drove out trade union leaders from the union building in Uzhhorod, Zakarpattia. We are in contact with the European External Action Services to get them to push for a more forceful response from the government. A message of support was also sent to the Greek energy workers’ union which organised a 48-hour strike and a demonstration on 25 April to protest against the privatisation and dismantling of their company. The union is seeking influence over the decisions and a withdrawal of the legislation.
International Workers’ Memorial Day
In many countries the actions and mobilization will get new inspiration from the important international days coming up on which the Labour movement will stress its commitments and demands for a better future. International Workers’ Memorial Day is celebrated on the 28 April and this year organized by the International Trade Union Confederation under the general theme that Organised Work places are Safer Workplaces.
With a strong union presence in the workplace we can make our rights come alive. One of the topics for information and consultation in the central government social partner agreement concerns health and safety. But the European Commission finds workers in central government administrations do not deserve this right in EU law and refuses to ask the European Council to implement the agreement. Employees’ demands to have information and consultation on how employers deal with the stress and insecurity for workers of a reorganization in a large commercial consultancy firm, for example, is protected by EU law but the Commission does not believe you need that protection when your employer is government agency that is forcing through restructuring. The unions and employers that negotiated the social partner agreement have jointly made clear to the Commission they disagree with its decision and demand discussion on this decision.
International Workers’ Day
The other global event coming up is 1 May. Ending exploitation of women and men and putting forward our proposals for Another World is inspiring millions across the world. For public service workers and our unions it will be another moment to stand up for democracy at work and in society. Information and consultation rights are crucial in assisting workers and people that are not cowed by their bullying employers and governments. We have seen several European countries dropping on the 2018 World Press Freedom Index, with media freedom in decline in Malta, Serbia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. The European Commission should realise that work place democracy and that includes EU protection for information and consultation rights, is a key part of creating democratic societies. However, by denying these workers that EU protection, the Commission plays into the hands of authoritarian regimes that believe their employees are simply subjects to obey marching orders. How to fight the wrong decision of the European Commission on the social partner agreement will be a main topic of our Executive Committee 8-9 May. And public service workers are showing they are up to the challenge.
News from EPSU – 26 April 2018