• Spring Social Conference

  • 10 May 11
  • On March 10 and 11, representatives of national and European trade unions and of NGOs and social networks from 15 EU countries (from both East and West) met for the first Spring Social Conference. The conference aims to bring together each year before the Spring European Summit a broad range of unions, social movements and activists looking for alternatives to globalisation in order to reaffirm the priorities necessary for a more social, more environmentally friendly and more democratic Europe. There is agreement among participants that Europe must respect its commitments as regards fundamental rights.

    The current crisis, which did not happen by accident, helps bring home what we had long felt: that we have come to the end of the road within a development model based on growth regardless of the social and ecological impact. It is based on hyper-consumption and on the limitless exploitation of nature and workers. The workers did not cause the crisis, but they have up to now been the victims. Enough is enough!

    The critical budgetary situation of the European Union countries must be dealt with in a different way:

    • by a fair tax system which, unlike the current trends, would weigh more heavily on the wealthy and on financial profits than it would on workers (that is, a return to progressive tax levels, a European tax on financial transactions, the abolishing of tax havens, the introduction of a minimum European corporate tax); 
    • by an audit of the public debts of the European Union countries: we cannot accept the mortgaging of the future of one or more generations because of a debt, which is to a large degree that of speculators and the financial system.
    • The “Pact” by Mssrs. Barroso and Van Rompuy will exert huge downward pressure on salaries:
    • by preventing them from keeping up with the development of the cost of living;
    • l by dismantling the process of collective bargaining through “opt-out” clauses;
    • by increasing flexibility, precariousness and unemployment even further.
    • And this in spite of the fact that:
    • Salaries (especially in the public-service sector and in Central and Eastern Europe) have already been significantly reduced in several countries; in many countries the number of working poor has increased considerably.
    • Business makes ever bigger profits and yet it pays ever lower taxes. 
    • We know that the 2008 crisis is to a large extent the end result of an unfair approach to the distribution of wealth, which penalises salaries and favours the excessive accumulation of profit.

    We have an alternative: an environmentally-friendly economy that commits to full employment through a more equitable distribution of wealth and jobs. We want an economy where all workers can count on a decent salary, collectively negotiated and which rises at the same rate and speed as prices and productivity. Such salaries are the only secure foundation for a decent life, but are equally at the core of all social protection systems and all public services.

    The “Pact” would reduce the real value of pensions (by tax reductions, by increasing the pension age, by cutting the public pension provision). In retirement, workers will either be condemned to poverty or (for the better paid among them) abandoned to the mercy of privately funded pensions. Pay-as-you-go state-guaranteed pensions at a sufficient level are financially feasible, without raising the pension age.

    Confronted by this declaration of war against people and basic rights, governments, parliamentarians and social movements have to take a clear position. All the movements and organisations participating in the Social Conference welcome the week of action announced today by ETUC and the Pan-European demonstration called for April 9 in Budapest.

    Furthermore, today we must build a solidarity network and broad and long-term European activist movements. We need to build broad support in society to confront this unprecedented attack on people’s and workers’ rights.

    In the coming weeks, and throughout 2011, these groups will rally at all levels (local, national, European and global - G8 and G20) to oppose this attack. They will also support the struggle against privatisation, the defence of our common goods, for example the struggle in Italy to win back public ownership of water (in particular the March in Rome on March 26).

    The European Parliament has an important role to play in this. In each country, our organisations will start monitoring the Members of European Parliament from their own countries: citizens, workers and social beneficiaries must know who their enemies are and who their friends are.