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ISSUE 52 page 2

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100,000 on streets of Brussels as European workers say ‘No to austerity!’
 ON 29th SEPTEMBER OVER 100,000 TRADE UNIONISTS HEEDED THE CALL of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and marched through the streets of Brussels to protests at the budget cuts and lay-offs that are spreading among the governments of the European Union countries. In the words of ETUC General Secretary John Monks ‘We are entering an era of very brutal austerity. Workers ... have already paid for a crisis they did not cause and now they have to bear the cost of austerity, even though certain banks, which were kept afloat with public funds, are making workers redundant’. The measures would have no positive effect he said, as can be seen in the two Member States furthest along this road: Greece and Ireland; instead the ETUC wants to see ‘a tax on financial transactions, a European programme for young people, who are particularly affected, investments in renewable energy technologies and an industrial policy capable of creating jobs for the future’.
A large contingent from UK unions and the National Pensioners Convention attended the day of action following the launch of the TUC’s ‘All Together for Public Services’ campaign. Many other demonstrations were held across Europe on the same day, coinciding in Spain with a general strike. In Lithuania unions organised a march, picketed ministries and employer organisations’ buildings and visited police offcers who were on hunger strike. Similar protests the previous week in Prague and Bucharest had attracted  40,000 and 20,000 respectively, forcing a ministerial resignation in Romania. Lauding the ‘huge success’ of the demonstration Mr. Monks promised ‘Our day of action marks not the end, but only the beginning of the struggle’.





Marches around Europe: Brussels (top left & bottom right), John Monks, the British contingent; Vilnius (top right); Madrid (bottom left)



Bargaining round-up
THE GROWING NUMBER OF HOME WORKERS IN BULGARIA has led the social partners in that country to conclude an agreement to regulate the sector. A survey by union federation CITUB found that these workers were overwhelmingly female, likely to be over fifty and worked exclusively at home. Home workers usually exist outside regulation and have no rights to a minimum wage, social security or a pension; they are rarely counted in official statistics or recognised by trade unions. This state of affairs seems to obtain in Bulgaria as only 2.8% of those surveyed had an employment contract. The draft law agreed with employers amends the Labour Code, the Social Security Code and the Law on Safety and Health at Work. Social Affairs Minister Totio Mladenov said that the proposed rules would give more effective control over the working conditions and pay of home workers, and also over the companies that employ them.
THE FORMER STATE-OWNED AIRLINE LUFTHANSA is an unusual German company in that there are a number of different trade unions representing its workers. As well as the country’s biggest union ver.di, breakaway organisations Ufo and VC are recognised as negotiating partners by the company. With the overturning of the ‘one workplace – one collective agreement’ principle in a recent court case (see page 6) these talks have become more complicated but two of the unions have now settled for a deal whereby pay will be frozen for up to 22 months. In the case of pilots Lufthansa promised VC not to transfer staff from its foreign subsidiaries who are on lower wages, to existing routes while ground staff organised by ver.di on shift work will be allowed to halve their hours in the years before retirement. A maximum limit of 12.5% of the entire workforce will be set for the employment of temps. Cabin crew union Ufo have rejected the deal.
REDUNDANCY WAS ON THE AGENDA IN TALKS between unions and Telecom Italia, the largest company in the sector. 6,800 job losses were announced in April but trade unions managed to get this reduced to 3,900 in the period up to the end of 2012, with no compulsory redundancies. Any older worker who volunteers will have their benefits topped up to 90% of their former salary by the company. Another 1,100 staff will be placed on solidarity contracts which will reduce their hours but make up some of the lost pay through the state. They will also be retrained with the aim of redeployment within the firm. Unions underlined the fact that the agreement avoids compulsory redundancies while the Government welcomed the deal as a ‘sign of maturity’ on the part of the unions and company.

EU bank reform slows down as Germany, UK, France raise objections

REFORM OF THE EU FINANCIAL SERVICES sector whose emergence, nearly two years after the demise of Lehman Brothers triggered the crash, we set out in our last issue, has run into difficulties with Member States. Not for the first time the UK has disagreed with the European Commission who want proceeds from a bank levy to go into a Europe-wide pot which would fund any future bank failures so avoiding a burden on tax payers. The British government wants any monies raised to go into national coffers, not only on grounds of sovereignty but because ‘If such a fund were created, it would encourage banks to indulge in risky behaviour, knowing that a bail-out fund was available’. But the EU’s Financial Services directorate insists ’Directing the proceeds of levies to the general budget, on the other hand, carries a risk that... could potentially handicap authorities' ability to coordinate intervention in a cross-border case’. A possible compromise whereby both national levies and EU-wide ones were introduced fell foul of German concerns that their banks based in the City of London would be taxed twice. Unions have urged the the commission to bring in a wider financial transactions tax (FTT) with John Monks of the ETUC believing that ‘an FTT on all transactions can contribute to re-pay the costs of the crisis and fund other public good objectives’. This seems to have been sidelined with General Secretary Monks callling the present proposals ‘unsatisfactory, unambitious, and unacceptable’.
Reform of hedge funds also faces obstacles over the vexed issue of ‘passports’ for approved fund managers. The UK, the European Commission and many Member States argue that managers able to gain approval to operate throughout the EU should not be limited to those based within the bloc. Such a regulation would be discriminatory according to the US government. However France initially opposed widening the application of the ‘passport’. Again a possible deal was torpedoed when the French government proposed that non-EU managers could be approved if the new European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) tightly regulated applications. Other Member States are wary of giving the ESMA too much power.


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