We are entering an important year for Europe, and for UNI Europa. Starting now, we are on to the Road to Belfast, paving the way for our 6th UNI Europa Conference in March 2025.
Collective bargaining is the essence of trade unions – and we will continue the fight for strengthening it. In the past year, employers made enormous profits that fuelled inflation while squeezing workers’ real-terms wages. Europe’s services workers deserve higher pay. And collective bargaining is how we win it. That is why our slogan for our 6th Conference is “Forward through Collective Bargaining – Real Say, More Pay”.
The European elections in June will mark a crucial stepping stone on our Road to Belfast, and in the fight to achieve our strategic priorities. Three major challenges lie ahead:
First, united in the ETUC, we must rally across the continent for the European elections. We need a European Parliament and Commission that prioritise the well-being of workers and their families. We must stop the advance of the far right.
Second, since January, the EU’s austerity rules are back. Governments made a wrong and bad decision. It will hurt workers, our economies and societies. We must keep fighting against this failed economic project – and for public investments and higher wages.
Third, by the end of the year, the 80% target for collective bargaining coverage will be national law. We all know how low coverage is in most countries. Trade unions, together with our allies, must make sure that the directive delivers on its promises.
To this end, we will take our flagship campaign “No Public Contract Without Collective Agreement” to the next level. The top priority on social matters for the incoming European Commission and Parliament must be revising public procurement rules. The EU must set a standard here for the whole of Europe: public money should only go to companies that respect workers, negotiate with trade unions and are covered by collective bargaining.
Reaching the 80% target, chiefly through public procurement rules, is one thing. The other is keeping bad employers from stealing workers’ wages. That is why we want to make wage theft and union busting a criminal offense everywhere. It is not a petty crime.
The 80% target, public procurement, and criminalisation are key planks in the ETUC Manifesto, around which the trade union movement rallies for the European elections. Together, we will put them on the agenda before, during, and after the vote – on our Road to Belfast 2025.
Finally, and tragically, there are two wars in our region now – in Ukraine, and in Israel-Palestine. We stand in solidarity with all the people affected by violence. I sincerely hope that our world will be closer to a peaceful and durable solution to these conflicts when we all meet in Belfast next year.
I wish you all a good 2024 full of focus, success and solidarity. I am looking forward to continuing the good work of building our movement.
Let us win real say and more pay for workers.
Forward through collective bargaining!
Watch the message in video format here.