As discussions about the future of Europe ramp up – with EU bureaucrats and businesses pushing for aggressive neoliberalism, restrictions on trade union activities and precarious work – GUE/NGL in cooperation with TUNE (Trade Unionists Network Europe) gathered trade unionists from across Europe to debate alternatives during a two-day conference at the European Parliament.
At the conclusion of the conference this afternoon, participants issued a joint message to the upcoming ‘social summit for fair jobs and growth’ on 17 November in Gothenburg, hosted by the government of Sweden and Commission President Jean Claude Junker.
Together they took a stand for fair working conditions, better salaries and dignity for workers, rejecting veiled Commission proposals to loosen market rules and maximise profits. Crucially, they called for the implementation of a social protocol to protect workers from exploitation.
GUE/NGL MEP Rina Ronja Kari welcomed the opportunity for a gathering of this sort:
“This important conference gives us a space and opportunity to hear from trade unions and their membership about the problems they face. Their take on reality helps us think beyond the confines of the so-called EU bubble.”
“We focused the debates on strategies to fight back against attacks from the Commission on our collective rights, which are evident in the proposals for directives currently on the table. I talked about the upcoming revision of the posting of workers directive. There was also debate about how to strengthen the collective rights of the trade union movement to fight for better conditions for workers everywhere.”
During the lively interventions, workers alerted MEPs to attacks on the right to organise and collective bargaining, the proposed neoliberal reforms in France and other countries, and an overall ‘race to the bottom’, threatening the precious gains of trade unions over the years.
One such example is the Commission’s proposal to modernise the transport sector. Spanish MEP Paloma López Bermejo criticised the current version of the mobility package as not giving enough response to the demands of workers and trade unions:
“The proposals are designed to strengthen the free market and boost profits by promoting precariousness, inequalities and discrimination. In some way, the Commission is trying to legalise the exploitation of workers of the transport sector with this package.”
“The mobility package does not fight social and labour dumping as promised, it does not address the unfair situation of displaced workers, it encourages practices as those carried by the letterbox companies, and it allows for exploitation at work,” she added.
López Bermejo vowed to fight the proposals at the European Parliament “to stop the disastrous consequences for a sector already heavily damaged by the economic crisis, deregulation and dumping.”
On the issue of work-life balance, Greek MEP Kostadinka Kuneva explained the contradictions in the Commission’s proposals:
“One of the most important issues we, the people of the Left, and the trade unionists have to struggle with is the idea of flexibility, especially in relation to working parents. I regret that the new proposed directive, replacing the Maternity Leave Directive, did not meet expectations. Instead of regulating the contradictory EU policies and filling the gaps as far labour and social rights are concerned, the proposal is contradictory. On the one hand, it tries to provide flexibility – by choice – and balanced working time but on the other hand, it promotes ‘flexicurity’ and precariousness.”
Kuneva recalled the example of her own country:
“Haven´t we learnt anything from the unsuccessful implementation of ‘flexicurity’ in Greece? The so-called package of ‘flexibility with security’ failed to be implemented in Greece due to certain provisions introduced in the framework of the Memoranda – which under the prescriptions of the Council – have completely deregulated labour relations,” the Greek MEP concluded.