“Let’s make an EU for people and workers”


EU Affairs

UNI Europa Regional Secretary Oliver Roethig's speech at the ETUC Social Summit.

“Let’s make an EU for people and workers”

Where do we stand today with Social Europe?

The challenge we have together as EU, governments and social partners is the prevalent view among workers: The European Union doesn’t deliver for workers – quite the opposite.

La Hulpe is a new opportunity for all of us to rectify this view. This is even more important, considering the upcoming elections and voters moving to far-right, anti-EU parties.

So, what we should be doing is having an ambitious agenda for social progress putting workers at the centre. 

The second option is to have another window dressing opportunity. Yet, let’s be clear: workers, voters see right through such an exercise – they know that the EU fed them placebo policies for three decades. 

The problem is not only that, but that many see this as a show of disrespect. Workers are neither stupid nor deplorable if they don’t see the EU’s light! 

Talking about lights. Looking back at the first anniversary of the European pillar of social rights. I talked about a brightly lid candle but no cake. Well, with the minimum wage directive we got baking powder – but the cake is still in the oven. Frankly, we don’t have the time to continue at such slow speed. 

As trade unions, we have an additional problem: Workers turn elsewhere, if we can’t deliver and instead support a window dressing exercise. So, a bad option for trade unions, the EU and the greater good. 

Even worse is, of course, if La Hulpe will be totally sidelined by the return of the EU’s austerity policies. We don’t accept an EU approach of a reverse Echternach dancing procession: one step forward and two steps backwards. 

How can the EU deliver for workers then? 

Let’s start with two easy points: 

First, show respect for workers. Let’s come up with a coordinated approach across Europe to make wage theft and union-busting criminal offences. Let’s ensure real deterrence for bad corporate behaviour. 

Second, let’s address artificial intelligence, especially generative AI, together in the workplace. It has and will be creating major upheaval in the workplace. We can only manage the transition together: with legislation putting workers at the centre and with a strong preference for solutions through collective bargaining.

But third and most important: put full focus on the 80 per cent for collective bargaining coverage as set out in the  minimum wage directive. Key to this is changing the public procurement Directive to genuinely promote collective bargaining. No public contract without collective agreement! 

I hear BusinessEurope and other employers are strongly opposed to such a change. That’s then a litmus test for the EU institutions and governments. What do they want? La Hulpe promoting a Europe for workers or against them? Without a commitment to improve EU public procurement rules to strengthen collective bargaining, there is no scope for a joint declaration at La Hulpe. Indeed, it puts into question once again the commitment of employers to social dialogue and the achievement of 80 per cent coverage for collective bargaining.

La Hulpe puts the ETUC on the spot. Workers need a Declaration that advances their position. 

Europe is at a tipping point. Let’s not waste another opportunity. Let’s make an EU for people and workers! 

Meetings & Events




PHSDialogue Project: 1st PHS Social Dialogue Plenary Session in Brussels 14 May

14 May 2024, 9h-16h CET | UNI Europa & EFSI Offices in Brussels

- Joint UNI & EFFAT Preparatory Meeting (morning, UNI Europa office)
- 1st PHS Social Dialogue Plenary Session (afternoon, EFSI office)

UNI Care Europa affiliates can register using the registration form below.



Protected: Commerce and Tourism EWC Network – 22 May 2024




Commerce and Tourism EWC network meeting