European trade unions mobilise in Member States in support of public services

Brussels, 20/04/2007

In the wake of the ETUC petition, unions have been stepping up their actions in Member States. The latest initiative, a demonstration in Rome, brought together the different Italian trade union confederations (CGIL, CISL and UIL). For the anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, the Italian trade unions stressed the need for European legislation, declaring: “Obtaining a million signatures across Europe ties in with the context of Italy's transposition of the decree on public services. European legislation clarifying the values and objectives of public services that must be maintained would make for a clearer framework at national level."

The joint demonstration by the Italian trade unions echoed the words of ETUC General Secretary John Monks: “Actions at national and European level aim to promote public services in Europe. We are asking for a legal framework reflecting the social cohesion role played by these services, rather than blind competition as the sole principle governing an open market.”

Following the actions organised in France and Spain, the French (CGT, UNSA, CFDT, CFTC) and Spanish (CC.OO, UGT) unions decided to join forces in Hendaye in support of the ETUC petition. The event offered an opportunity to highlight the transnational nature of public services: "Public employment, health, education, energy and postal services are essential for fostering the mobility of cross-border workers and accompanying them in their daily lives. Such services are among the fundamental rights to which all citizens in our European societies have to be entitled.” The trade unionists from both countries voiced concerns, notably on energy and postal services: “In both Spain and France, privatisations are already leading to the shut-down of post offices and electricity service agencies in rural areas and mountain regions.”

In Ljubljana, at the demonstration 'For quality public services, accessible to all', the President of the Association of Free Trade Unions, Dušan Semoli?, declared: “Public services, especially health and education, cannot be subject to internal market rules. We need a clear line of demarcation between the public system and the private sector.”

These different events clearly establish the link between the European petition and national issues, such as privatisation plans. Agnès Jongerius, President of the Netherlands Trade Union Federation (FNV), commented: "We are calling for a moratorium on liberalisation, at the national and European levels alike. We are campaigning with our colleagues from across Europe by means of a petition to urge the European Commission to protect public services and to guarantee quality and accessibility for all.”