Austerity Policies Continued !
(23 April 2012) Austerity measures continue to bite across Europe. In this newsletter we are reporting about the Spanish General strike (a huge success), Serbian public sector mobilisations, a national mass demonstration in the Czech Republic, the battle of Portuguese trade unions and social movements against privatisation of the water company and finally the struggle of Greek prison officers.
The members of the Executive Committee of the Greek prison officers association went on a hunger strike to mark their claim of 3 year of unpaid wages. The participants of the EPSU Prison Service Conference held in Oslo from 11 – 13 April declared their full support for this action, which illustrates the level of desperation amongst groups of workers in Europe.
In the coming weeks many initiatives will take place to discuss what type of alternative policy we need to develop to overcome the crisis. Across Europe there is growing consensus that we need more and better coordination to do so. The ETUC Steering Committee met on Thursday last week to discuss the idea of a ‘social contract’ to express our opposition to the Fiscal Compact and to present an alternative agenda. EPSU will continue to play its role to develop such alternative.
On the European agenda, we saw the publication of the Employment package. The European Commission claims that it want to promote measures to fight persistent unemployment in Europe. One key aspect is missing however in the proposal, and that is the need to invest in quality jobs. If the European Union and its member states continue to implement rigid fiscal austerity rules, this package will essentially be window dressing, without real effect. On the contrary, cutting deficits in the midst of a recession will produce an even deeper recession and further aggravate unemployment rates. Labour market policies cannot compensate for failing macro-economic policies.
Europe needs massive investment to develop sectors towards a green transition, including investment in skills, training and higher wages, particularly in the health and social services sector. We see no such programme in the Commission current policies. On the contrary, the prescribed recipe is flexicurity and low wages.
Continued trade union pressure, continued mobilization therefore remains of the essence.