Von der Leyen's first meeting of 2020 is with trade unions

ETUC leaders meet with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen

The ETUC held a positive first meeting with Ursula von der Leyen today - the European Commission President's first external engagement of 2020 - to discuss raising wages through collective bargaining and other priorities for European workers.

Von der Leyen’s pledges for her first 100 days include measures to “ensure that every worker in our Union has a fair minimum wage” and the Commission will publish a consultation on the policy on January 14.

The ETUC welcomes plans for a long overdue pay rise and believes collective bargaining is the sustainable solution to combat wage cuts and inequality. During today’s meeting, President von der Leyen agreed that collective bargaining is fundamental to a social market economy and asked the ETUC to prepare proposals on how collective bargaining can be strengthened in each member state.

On the Commission’s other priorities for the first 100 days, the ETUC emphasised the need for:

  • A genuinely just transition and strong social dimension in both the European Green Deal and the Digital Services Act to ensure that no worker is left behind.
  • An initiative on pay transparency that includes concrete measures to close the gender pay gap and digital legislation that ends precarious work.
  • The full implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights and the involvement of trade unions in the Conference on the Future of Europe and the next stage of Brexit negotiations. 

The ETUC set out its willingness to actively participate in the delivery of these shared priorities and agreed on the need for a rapid approval of the EU’s new long term budget to ensure that there are funds, including new own resources, that match the scale of the Commission’s programme.

Speaking following the meeting at the Berlaymont, ETUC General Secretary Luca Visentini said:  

“The ETUC held a positive first meeting with President von der Leyen in which we agreed that collective bargaining is the best way to ensure that working people get a fair share.

“A pay rise for European workers is long overdue after a decade of austerity but minimum wages can only be a first step – a sustainable solution to inequality requires Europe to protect collective bargaining where it’s working and promote it where it’s weak. 

“Full gender pay transparency, a socially just climate transition and an end to precarious work are also shared priorities essential to achieving the Commission’s goal of an ‘economy that works for people.’

“Trade unions have an important role to play in rebuilding confidence in Europe among working people and we are sure this meeting is the start of strong social dialogue with the new Commission.”

Deputy General Secretaries, Esther Lynch and Per Hilmersson, also attended the meeting, which was von der Leyen’s first engagement with an outside organisation in 2020.

More detail on the ETUC’s positions can be found here: https://www.etuc.org/en/document/15-etuc-priorities-new-mandate-eu-institutions   

A clip of the ETUC delegation meeting Ursula von der Leyen is available here: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-182583

Press release