Introduction to Chapters 9, 10 and 11
Speech held by ETUC General Secretary John Monks at the ETUC Conference in Athens, 18 May 2011
I have the tricky task of making a speech covering the international challenges facing the ETUC, the future of the Social Dialogue, and the way the ETUC operates – all very important issues for our future.
And all in 10 minutes. Abraham Lincoln managed the Gettysburg address in about the same time so it can be done though selectively, not comprehensively.
100 years ago, Europe dominated the world. Only 6 countries were not in Europe, or were European colonies, or former colonies of Europe. Imperialism exploited the world for the benefit of Europe, especially for the rich and powerful in Europe.
Remember that – because the rest of the world remembers that.
Now the balance has shifted – and will shift further. New, hungry emerging economies are becoming both trading partners and formidable competitors. They are cheap. They are unregulated. According to the ILO, only 20% of the workers of the world have access to social protection.
What can the EU do? First, promote democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for dignity, decency, equality and solidarity. It must also give strong support to the United Nations. And it should promote the European Social Model around the world. It can be our greatest export.
The social market economy with strong labour rights and collective bargaining is the best model for the workers of Europe. It is the best model for the workers of the world. To the EU’s leaders, I say – stop apologising for it, stop being on the defensive. Promote it with energy, take the offensive. Put social clauses in your trade agreements to promote greater respect for social and environmental concerns right round the world. Remember the EU is the world’s biggest market. That gives it real power.
At present our attention is inevitably drawn to the south and east sides of the Mediterranean, North Africa and the Middle East. Our panel yesterday showed that. We welcome the emergence of powerful democratic movements with trade unions in the avant garde. We deplore the deployment of brutal state power in Libya, Syria and Bahrein. We resolve to help our neighbours, our brothers and sisters, with their struggles for freedom, jobs and democracy; and to handle the difficult question of migration with sensitivity. We want Schengen to be maintained. Governments must not dance to the warped music of the far right and the tabloid newspapers.
In Europe, we have supported EU enlargement, and will continue to do so. Our condition is the observance of the social ‘acquis’ and decent labour rights and standards. Some countries who are recent EU members have let us down in this respect, Romania being a current example. What that Government is doing is a disgrace.
We work with our neighbours in partnership. The Pan European Regional Council is working well, and has harnessed the ITUC and ETUC together to make a real difference in Europe beyond the EU.
We want the EU External Relations Service to count much more, and it is vital that it includes employment and social attaches in its key embassies.
We stand for trade union rights and peace throughout the world and are poised and ready to demonstrate solidarity with trade union struggles from Wisconsin to Belarus, from China to Colombia, Iraq to Libya …
Chapter 10 explores the scope for promoting social dialogue. This has been a difficult dossier and I pay tribute to JoŽl Decaillon for his skillful and often courageous leadership in leading on this.
Social dialogue is our core business, yet it is not easy when employers are under little external pressure to negotiate – as has been the case for some time. And to be frank there is a lack of involvement by some national organisations, divergence between national models, and the difficulty of pursuing shared high ambitions.
But we have made progress on key subjects like inclusive labour markets and parental leave and, while the immediate prospects for progress are not rosy, I hope that affiliates will support this work which is in the clear interest of the workers of Europe. Unions, first and foremost, are negotiatiors, and the Euro Plus Pact will pose new challenges to the ETUC, to the Tripartite Social Summit, to the Macroeconomic Dialogue, and to Social Dialogue, indeed to you all.
We have this right to social dialogue enshrined in Europe’s treaties. Use it or risk losing it.
Social dialogue is one of our key tools in mobilising for Social Europe. Others include campaigning, demonstrating, lobbying, and there is a wish to launch a new ETUC campaign for equal pay for equal rights and for a Social Progress Protocol. I wish you well with this important campaign. But to do more than the present team has managed, you will have to look the scale of ETUC resources as applied to campaigns in order to generate the greatest possible impact. At present, we do this work – all the demos, the publicity etc on a shoestring and with very limited language coverage.
You will also need to link European level and national level campaigning to a greater extent than we have managed so far.
You will also need to mobilise behind those candidates for the European Parliament who are committed to Social Europe, and who will side with us in the battles ahead. The Parliament can be a very important ally.
So a full agenda in these chapters, an agenda full of challenges but full of hope. I wish you well with it.