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

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Is This What Europeans Want?

The New York Times asks whether the Europeans want the US deregulation economy, with tiny unions and no legal minimums of any note. It is a good question. If we can re phrase it - is it what the governments and corporate bosses want and what can the unions do about it? Certainly it is what our economic masters want. Deregulation is sweeping across Europe, workers rights and entitlements being burnt in a bonfire of regulations and trade union powers. In the UK it is an increasingly poverty style minimum wage, a restriction on and charges for an ET claim, further proposed restrictions on strikes and ballots. In Spain the wholesale dismantling of national collective bargaining is being followed in Portugal and Italy. Even in Germany, as the article points out, it is the creation of new so called `mini jobs` that has benefited business but not people.

What can the unions do about it? Protest? General Strike? Look at Spain, Italy, Portugal and especially Greece. No success with that strategy. One or two day general strikes are impressive demonstrations of protest, but so far they have not shifted the governments. Nor is this the time for patient union building. Workforces are being devastated at a pace that is faster than our recruitment campaigns are going to be able to manage. So far at UNISON we can claim to be keeping up, but it might not last.

Unions in Europe are not finished yet. Membership in Germany has stabilised and some unions are reporting growth, IG Metall and IG Bau for example, both in difficult sectors but growing. Unison and Unite are still showing signs of small growth in a context of shrinking sectors. Trade union density in the Nordic countries continues to be up in the 80 % plus level.

We must intensify organising. Intensify it to the cost of everything else. All resources must be checked for their organising outputs, is it worth doing if it doesn`t add to our strength? Is it worth doing if it doesn`t add to our power? We must be strategic in our thinking about opposition, using leverage and using the tactics of pressure. Strike action must be selective and strategic. We must win some early battles. This requires leadership and vision of the highest calibre. Otherwise its not just the fate of workers in the US that is waiting, it is also the fate of the US unions - tired, irrelevant and losing.