UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

The quixotic demands of the ETUC

‘High noon for social Europe’ is the theme of the European Trade Union Confederation’s (ETUC) mid term conference which opened yesterday in Dublin, the graveyard of social partnership. ETUC General Secretary Bernadette Segol stated that ‘social Europe must be at the core of all economic decisions. Social Europe is not an optional appendage to economic governance, social Europe is part and parcel of economic governance.’

In March 2012 Segol denounced the EU for adopting the Fiscal Compact and accused it of pressing down ‘the path of permanent automatic austerity.’ The consequences across Europe have been mass unemployment, labour deregulation and increased privatisation.

Yet in the face of that reality the ETUC continues to assert that “we have always been supportive of the EU project primarily because it aimed not only at economic integration but was also meant to foster social progress and full employment. We remain convinced that potentially, the European Union is a project worth investing in, but we need a change of course and major investment programme to restore sustainable growth if social Europe is to become a reality. Without this change the ETUC support cannot be taken for granted.’

The same muddled thinking was evident at this week’s GMB conference when Paul Kenny stated in his General Secretary’s speech that ‘An EU referendum is inevitable and the GMB will be leading the campaign for Britain to remain a part of it’ yet went on to say ‘but let’s be clear, and let the trades union movement be clear, with no social agenda, no social advancement, if Cameron thinks that this union will campaign for a Yes vote without a Social Chapter, then he is wrong. No social rights mean a No vote from me and I guess it is going to mean a No vote from you.’

The truth of the matter is that the essence of the EU is embedded neo liberalism. Whether we’re for it or against it, that economic and political reality should be acknowledged. It is delusional and dishonest to suggest that the notion of a social Europe is feasible in a project based on a free market economy and rule of capital.

High noon for social Europe? One minute to midnight is more like it.