New European trade union leader to prioritise pay rises and solidarity

The new General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) has said she will prioritise improved pay for workers in the face of the continent-wide cost of living crisis.

Esther Lynch, appointed General Secretary on 6th December will complete a journey from factory worker to the top of the European labour movement, says her organisation will work to create a broad alliance for higher wages, secure jobs and respect for collective bargaining.

Esther Lynch – the first Irish General Secretary of the ETUC – first became a union representative when she worked in a micro-chip factory in the 1980s. She went on to work at the Irish Congress of Trade Unions for two decades, where she worked on the negotiation of Ireland’s national pay and social partnership agreements and the union response to the Troika’s attacks on wages and collective bargaining a decade ago. She joined the ETUC in 2015.

Her experience of working for the minimum wage gives her a first-hand knowledge of making ends meet on low wages, and she says she will use that experience to drive forward the ETUC’s demands for pay rises and taxes on excess profits as the only fair way out of the cost-of-living crisis.

Lynch will step up pressure on the European Commission to ensure that trade unions are at the decision table and for social dialogue to underpin an ambitious and coherent industrial policy aimed at strengthening the real economy, industries and services backed up by essential public services. She will fight for anti-crisis measures based on solidarity to make sure Europe gets out of the cost-of-living crisis together. 


Preventing another lost decade

The ETUC’s new General Secretary will fight to prevent another lost decade of austerity and instead push for policies which put Europe on the side of working people – including:

  • achieving fair pay and ending economic injustice through a Europe-wide initiative to promote the benefits of collective bargaining
  • securing equal pay for work of equal value to end the undervaluing of work done predominantly by women
  • restoring security in employment, and stop the spread of bogus self-employment and other ‘new’ work arrangements that undermine hard-fought-for rights
  • new rights for workers and unions to anticipate and manage change in the workplace and a just transition with genuine protections for workers and regions impacted by the shift to a low carbon economy.


Road to success   

In her current position as Deputy General Secretary of the ETUC, Lynch has secured new protections for workers from work-related cancer, fought successfully to achieve improved directives on gender pay transparency and adequate minimum wages, and secured a commitment from employers to negotiate a directive on the right to disconnect.

A lifelong feminist activist, and only the second woman to be ETUC General Secretary, her appointment follows the election of former ETUC General Secretary Luca Visentini to the head of the International Trade Union Confederation.

On taking the post, ETUC General Secretary Esther Lynch said:

“I know how hard it is right now for people who can’t afford the most basic of life’s necessities despite waking up early every day to drop off the kids before working a long shift.

“That’s why I know how urgent it is that we create a Europe where work is valued, where every job is well paid, secure and fulfilling and not just seen as a cost to be cut.

“The only positive way forward for Europe, free from the far-right and authoritarianism, is to move towards jobs with higher wages, better conditions and stronger rights.

“Under my leadership, the ETUC will work hard for all working people and their communities, I am convinced that trade unions and collective bargaining offer the best way for working people to improve their lives and that working together we can bring politicians and employers to the table to build a fairer Europe for workers.”

“It is an honour to be chosen as ETUC General Secretary.”  


- Interviews are available on request to [email protected]

Link to full CV 

The ETUC represents 93 national trade union federations in 41 European countries. It negotiates with EU institutions, European employer bodies and other social partners to seek agreement on a range of European-level worker protections.