European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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15 March 2013

“Blind austerity” undermines fundamental social rights

In a debate organized by the ETUI on 13 March 2013, representatives of the Transnational Trade Union Rights Experts’ Network (TTUR) presented their manifesto for the respect of fundamental social rights in Europe. The manifesto has been signed by more than 470 academic lawyers working in the field of social and labour law.

The European lawyers who signed the manifesto are deeply concerned at the systematic attacks on social dialogue, collective bargaining systems and labour law provisions that are taking place in several European countries.

Niklas Bruun (Stockholm and Helsinki Universities), Klaus Lörcher (former legal advisor to the ETUC) and Isabelle Schömann (senior researcher at the ETUI) explained why they and their TTUR colleagues had found it necessary to start a campaign requesting their peers to sign a manifesto which urges the EU institutions to respect and promote fundamental social rights when deciding upon, and implementing, policy measures to deal with Europe’s fiscal and economic crisis.

Niklas Bruun referred to the criticism emanating from international institutions such as the ILO and the Council of Europe. Both these institutions have condemned violations of the fundamental right to collective bargaining in Greece. The European Union has, as yet, not responded to the criticism.

A signatory of the manifesto, Pascale Vielle, of the University of Louvain-la-Neuve in Belgium, welcomed the TTUR initiative and stressed that social scientists need to study how the EU’s austerity policies affect different groups in society (youth, women, the unemployed, migrants).

Patrick Itschert, deputy general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), expressed his organisation’s support for the manifesto. “Trade unions are in favour of real economic governance and are not opposed to fiscal discipline,” Itschert said, “but we oppose the EU’s ‘blind austerity’ which is used as a pretext to introduce ‘structural reforms’ which it was not able to push through in the past”.

ETUC confederal secretary Veronica Nilsson added that European trade unions are willing to consider a litigation strategy if the EU sticks to this ineffective and socially unjust austerity policy.

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