Monday, December 17, 2012

The role of trade unions in Europe

(Guest post by London UNISON activist and Regional Labour Link Committee member Sanchia Alasia ).  "Trade unions have a strong and ever growing important role to play in the European Union. Many European countries are currently bearing the brunt of harsh austerity measures, high youth unemployment and threats to employment rights, which trade unions need to stand up and fight against.

Take the UK for instance. The chancellor George Osborne announced at the Conservative Party conference this year that workers could gain shares within companies in exchange of valuable employment rights such as unfair dismissal, redundancy and the right to request flexible working and time off for training. A few pounds in shares is not worth works giving up hard won employment rights by won by our trade unions. If for example you received £2,000 in shares and they increased by 100% you would still only have £4,000 but could be sacked tomorrow.

 The ideology of the Tory led government is to denigrate the trade unions as they regularly do in the House of Commons and make light of employment protections that workers are entitled to. The shocking thing is that companies will be able to force this on new recruits if they choose from April 2013, which is only a few months away.

My trade union, UNISON currently has a fantastic campaign about the living wage, which is an hourly rate set independently every year. It is calculated according to the cost of living and gives the minimum pay rate required for a worker to provide their family with the essentials of life. In London the 2012/2013 Greater London Authority rate is £8.55 per hour and outside of London the current rate is £7.45. 

 This campaign by UNISON, spurred me to work with one of my fellow councillors at Barking and Dagenham council, Josie Channer, who is the chair of the living and working select committee to ensure that low paid council workers have been given the living wage.

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) is an organisation that has a united voice on behalf of the common interests of workers, at the European level. It represents 85 trade union organisations in 36 European countries. The Trades Union Congress (TUC) based in the UK is a member of the ETUC. The TUC is the voice of Britain at work with 54 affiliated unions (including my union UNISON), representing 6.2 million working people from all walks of life. They campaign for a fair deal at work and for social justice at home and abroad as well as negotiating in Europe.

It is important that the TUC continues to work alongside the ETUC to promote full employment, social protection, equal opportunities, good quality jobs, social inclusion, and an open and democratic policy-making process that involves citizens fully in the decisions that affect them across the European Union. It is only through workers’ consultation, collective bargaining, social dialogue and good working conditions that innovation, productivity, competitiveness and growth in Europe will thrive".

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