The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) is holding a conference in Madrid today to celebrate its 40th anniversary and to launch its campaign against austerity and for workers’ rights. TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady will make her first speech on Europe, and she’ll use it not only to attack the Coalition’s own austerity measures but also to urge unions across the EU to join the TUC’s campaign against his policy of repatriating EU workers’ rights.
Frances won’t just be calling for solidarity from our colleagues across Europe. She’ll be arguing that what David Cameron is actually proposing goes further than just opting out of the EU social model so that British workers can be forced to work longer for less, sacked at will, and treated as unfairly as their boss wants. She’ll argue that this could undermine the social model in every other European country and may even be used as an excuse by neoliberal politicians everywhere to dismantle their own social models.
So Frances will be calling on the European trade union movement to turn the Tory Europe strategy on its head, turn it into a campaign of solidarity across Europe, not just a little local difficulty. Just as the austerity policies being practiced in Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain are being reproduced elsewhere in Europe, we believe that the Coalition attack on workers’ rights in Britain (which began as an attack on UK rights such as qualifying periods for unfair dismissal, the Agricultural Wages Board and compensation for industrial injuries) is now being turned into an attack on EU-derived rights across the EU.