The central theme of the Conference was strengthening collective bargaining power, in particular what UNI Europa and affiliates can do together to reinforce unions in dealing with factors outside their respective country that have impact on collective bargaining. The aim is to defend, extend and rebuild union power everywhere in Europe so that every worker throughout our sectors is covered by collective agreements. It is about the ability of services workers to shape their own working lives collectively, to have a say in their workplaces. It is the best guarantee that working life allows workers and their families to live in dignity.
“Forward through collective bargaining” was the rallying call and the shared vision that came out in the Resolutions (also available in French, German and Swedish). The Regional Secretary’s keynote address summarised the key priorities that they carry (as outlined in Resolution 1A).
Importantly, Conference also took a stand for democracy. Indeed, democracy at work and democracy in society are two sides of the same coin. Sectoral collective bargaining is a public good and essential to maintaining democracy. Conference called for a joint effort by everyone to strengthen collective bargaining: governments, parliaments, EU institutions, employers, NGOs and society at large, not least because collective bargaining is an antidote to populism.
The following strategic axes were established:
- Bottom up, organising, building a strong membership base that engages in trade union activities and collective bargaining (Resolution 1B: Forward through collective bargaining – organising). To do so, UNI Europa’s geographically targeted organising centres EPOC (Western Europe) and COZZ (Czechia, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia) were given stronger mandates and a third one, the UNI South East European Organising Centre, was launched. This work is complemented by sector or company focused organising activities. Part of our organising approach is also enhancing coordination of collective bargaining among affiliates, for instance through developing common frameworks on cutting-edge collective bargaining issues that can serve as an orientation and inspiration for affiliates.
- Top down, influencing EU policies in particular to provide an enabling framework for collective bargaining (Resolution 1C: Forward through collective bargaining – EU Law and Policies). UNI Europa will amplify the voice of services workers, the largest part of Europe’s workforce, in EU policymaking. Our aim is first of all to stop the EU from weakening collective bargaining through its direct interventions or indirectly by putting business interest in the internal market above those of workers. We want the EU to change course and actively promote collective bargaining. UNI Europa endorses the objective set out by the European Parliament for collective bargaining coverage to reach 90% by 2030. The lowest hanging fruit for achieving this is changing EU and national public procurement rules. This is what our campaign “No public contracts for companies without collective agreements”, that we launched at Conference with a digital action, is about. Services workers, our members, are most affected by the accelerating changes to the world of work in particular through digitalisation and climate change. From the EU, we expect a framework that is conducive to a just transition ensuring good working conditions and empowering workers to have their say.
- Engaging with multinational companies to create a negotiating environment for our affiliates (Resolution 1D: Forward through collective bargaining – multinational companies). With its affiliates, UNI Europa will further enhance the coordination within multinational companies and clusters of them. The aim is that these companies respect the collective rights of workers, refrain from union busting and engage in sectoral collective bargaining through national employers’ associations wherever they operate. At the core of this work is building strong trade union alliances and European works councils that extend their reach down a company’s supply chain. Due diligence on business human and labour rights will be an additional lever that we will develop. Our first priority regarding multinational companies is forcing Amazon to engage in sectoral collective bargaining, respect workers’ rights and accept the European social model in the workplace and beyond.
In addition, we will continue working on cutting-edge collective bargaining issues (Resolution 2). The purpose is to pool the knowledge of affiliates and develop a framework for supporting affiliates in collective bargaining. The outcomes will also help with fine-tuning our political demands towards the EU institutions and our organising strategies. On AI, upskilling, self-employed and restructuring, UNI Europa has already worked intensively as reflected in Resolution 2 and the reports (on lifelong learning, self-employment and restructuring and artificial intelligence) of two pre-Conference webinars. Additional topics will include remote work, climate change and gender equality.
Further policy resolutions were adopted:
- Covid-19 (Emergency Resolution): The resolution stressed the critical role of services workers in keeping society functioning throughout the crisis. To address the accelerated changes experienced during the pandemic, UNI Europa outlined the need for strong services sectors and workers say within it, to guide a recovery and lay the foundations for a new normal of workplace democracy.
- Upholding and strengthening democracy (Resolution 3): We will work towards an effective trade union response to authoritarianism and extremism, in particular at the workplace – standing up for a world free of racism, xenophobia, anti-feminism with respect for all people, no matter their gender or sexual orientation. We plan to organise a conference to this topic back-to-back with an UNI Europa Executive Committee meeting at the end of 2021.
- The future of services (Resolution 4): UNI Europa has a clear vision of how industrial relations and public policy, especially by the EU, can support the development of a fair and sustainable European services industry for the future. This includes an ambitious industrial policy for the services sectors in the EU internal market focusing in particular on skills, digitalisation and just transition.
- Equal representation (Resolution 6): Bringing the voice of all workers to the table, in order to ensure the elimination of all kinds of discrimination and the proper implementation of the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment for all is a core commitment of UNI Europa. It commits to equal representation for women in debates and decisions in its structures, surpassing the 40% benchmark that currently exists.
- Palestine (Resolution 8): The framework of UNI Europa’s policy on Palestine are the Congress resolutions of UNI Global adopted in 2014 and 2018, in particular supporting a just and sustainable peace between Israel and Palestine in line with UN resolutions and the establishment of a free and independent Palestinian state. It calls for the EU to use all its instruments to stop all violation of human rights arising from the occupation and to an end economic support for the illegal settlements.
Two statements were also adopted: one supporting the pending EU draft legislation on minimum wages and collective bargaining (statement) and one reinforcing our commitment to trade union unity in addressing the consequences of Brexit and that the British unions remain part of the European trade union movement (statement).