Strong trade unions are the key to industrial success!

By Staff
5 Min Read

As workers across Europe celebrate May Day, manufacturing unions are focused on well-functioning and stable industrial relations as a means of achieving a thriving economy that fosters good jobs and decent living standards.

This year May Day comes just weeks before the upcoming European elections. It is a good opportunity to remember that while far right parties might sing a song of defending workers’ rights, when elected they consistently act against workers’ interests.
The trade union movement must act as a defensive wall: a barricade that cannot easily be breached by forces that wish us harm imposing austerity measures, attacking the right to organise and strike, and deregulating rights and workplace protections. 

Regrettably, several EU member states are taking steps in the wrong direction. Finland is a blatant example of this. A wide range of attacks on workers’ rights, proposed by the country’s most conservative government ever, have sparked outcry among trade unions. If adopted, these measures would undermine a successful model that has brought wealth, fairness, and harmony to the Finnish society for generations.

The government of Prime Minister Orpo wants to put limits on the right to strike, promote decentralised bargaining, give access for non-unionised workers to negotiate collective agreements and weaken protection against dismissals. They also intend to cut more than 10% of public spending, by for example reducing unemployment benefits, child allowances and housing support, whereas pensions will be taxed higher.

This past year Finnish unions have staged waves of strikes to counter these attacks. IndustriAll Europe stands firmly behind the Finnish unions in their struggle.

They have joined calls for a European Industrial Deal reiterating that good industrial relations are a precondition for a robust manufacturing sector in Europe. The green and digital transition of Europe’s manufacturing sector cannot happen without the trade unions being part of it. Social conditionalities are a key means of ensuring that public funds and support delivers good quality jobs – a point endorsed by 1000 industrialists through the Antwerp Declaration.

Countries with well-functioning industrial relations systems have proven to deliver quality jobs, competitiveness, and economic success. The future of the EU should be built on social progress and not on lower standards.

Finland is not the only country where things are moving in the wrong direction. In the Czech Republic, France, and Italy unions are struggling with governments who want to turn back the clock to a time of austerity. If workers’ rights are destroyed, it jeopardises the future of Europe’s industries where good relations between the social partners have traditionally been a competitive advantage.

And our call for Good Industrial Jobs is not limited to our backyard, we want good jobs along global supply chains. Whether through new union-won rules on corporate sustainability due diligence, the ban on importing goods produced with forced labour or within European companies sites elsewhere in the world, we are putting values into action. 

And there’s no better symbol of this than the vote, a few weeks ago, by an overwhelming majority of employees at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga (Tennessee) to join the American Auto Workers Union (UAW). Until the historic win in Chattanooga, this was the only unorganised Volkswagen plant in the world. Now there is hope that several other car factories in the US will follow suit so that this decision to organise will be part of a larger pattern.
This May Day we take energy from our victories to reinforce our collective efforts to defend and extend rights at work, to stand as a barrier to those who wish to scapegoat and divide, and to build trade union power. Solidarity forever.

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