Tuesday in Luxembourg will see the latest demonstrations by trade union members from around Europe. The last one in Budapest attracted thousands of protesters.
Ignacio Fernández Toxo is the President of the European Trade Union Confederation, representing 60 million workers from 36 countries.
He has been telling euronews about the objectives of the demonstrations.
Ignacio Fenandez Toxo:
At the Federation’s Congress held in Athens last month, we approved a program of a series of measures aimed at correcting the politics of austerity being applied throughout Europe against cuts in social spending and defending the rights and wages of workers.
Notably, you denounce the Euro Pact Plus being discussed by the 27 EU members in Brussels this week. In your opinion, how is this deal detrimental to European workers?
Above all, this pact is deeply anti-democratic. Because all the questions that were denied inclusion in the European Union treaties, are today being discussed by Ecofin – European finance ministers. Like tax issues of various governments, straying into areas such as wages, collective bargaining and pensions. This, in our opinion, takes away from national governments and the social policies that have been developed by the various countries. In addition, these impositions are being introduced in a very abrupt manner and are aimed at seriously worsening the conditions for workers. All this, added together, if it materialises, will represent a serious setback in the way we deal with social rights in Europe in the future.
What is the most problematic aspect of this agreement for you, the unions?
The most problematic aspect of the pact is the part that affects the future of social protection systems, that is unemployment benefits. We must remember that today there are in the EU 23 million people without a job. The future of pensions today is under enormous pressure with the requirement to work longer and the expectation of reduced benefits for future pensioners. And also everything related to major public services like health or education, aid to families in situations of dependence, etc.
Mr. Toxo, with all the strikes taking place in Greece and other European countries. What concrete policies can you offer to workers to get us out of this crisis?
We are strongly proposing the adoption of collective negotiation to try to combine moderate wage growth with the defence of jobs. The adoption of strategies to improve competitiveness of countries and the productivity of each enterprise. But all this effort, if it’s not accompanied by decisive action by the EU to revitalise the economy – you have to remember that we’re going through a deep crisis which is already very long – if all this efforts isn’t accompanied by measures like the imposition of a tax on financial transactions required for the banks to pay for some of the damage they have done, then it will be difficult for our politicies to have the desired effects.