UNI Europa Regional Secretary’s Intervention at Pillar of Social Rights Conference

Monday 23 January 2017

Trade unions have always been strong supporters for a strong social Europe, not least because fair and decent working conditions depend on good EU policies.

President Juncker is right that this Commission is the EU’s last chance – and the clock is ticking.

Let me be blunt and send a SOS signal.

Increasingly workers see the EU as anti-workers, anti-social and anti-democratic; indeed that the Commission is anti-European.

For many workers, the EU has not kept its promise of improving their living and working conditions.

Instead they identify the EU with social dumping and poverty – the Troika, the men in black suits, is often the EU’s image out there.

Too many UK workers voted for Brexit.

Soon too many French workers might conclude Le Pen is their best choice.

Working people are not just voting against the centre-left and the centre-right.

They are voting against the EU and its institutions.

They do not believe Europe understands their interests, or acts in their interests.

This must change, it can change and, importantly, it must be seen to change.

For everyone in this room who believes in Europe, the social pillar is the perhaps the last opportunity to show a new, pro-worker face.

We must not miss it.

We need a Commission that puts social rights first and proactively improves working conditions of people.

Three things need to be done foremost:

First, the Commission must combat inequality.

The way to do so is to promote collective bargaining at sectoral and national level.

To weaken collective bargaining is instead actively promoting inequality.

European workers need a pay rise and good working conditions.

Second, freedom of movement is discredited.

To overcome this, the Commission must present a comprehensive legislative programme, a new social action programme, for stopping social dumping across borders.

Trade unions are for competition, but based on quality.

We oppose an EU that gives an extra advantage for those that push down working conditions and workers‘ pay.

Third, the Commission must address the labour and social dimension of digitalisation.

It is shortsighted to focus on business, consumer and social security.

10% of jobs will be gone in 10 years – too many of them will be mid-level jobs.

We need policies, legislation and investment that ensure decent and predictable career perspectives for all working people, not only the lucky few – even when the speed of change is accelerating.

On top of this, without getting the hairdressing social partner agreement adopted, the Commission lacks any credibility to be a champion of social dialogue and social Europe.

We want Europe and the Juncker Commission to succeed.

We are ready to help, because the trade union movement is strongly pro-European.

We need a Commission that delivers for all workers.

Quite frankly for now the Commission fails to make this case.

What we expect is a Commission that sets out a comprehensive plan for a true social Europe, not one that just tinkers around the margins.

I hope when the Commission will present its proposals on the pillar on social rights in March I can say on behalf of the millions of service workers I represent:

„You convinced us!

Social Europe has no longer junk rating!

Together, we are building a triple A social Europe!”