Blog Action Day: Putting the union in “European Union”
As the theme of Blog Action Day is ‘the power of we’, Becky and I have blogged rather philosophically. But trade unionism is nothing if not practical, so here’s something a little more concrete about ‘the power of we’.
This Saturday there will be demonstrations in London (organised by the TUC) and Rome (by CGIL) against austerity and for a future that works/work comes first. Both will have a significant focus on the dire situation facing young people. And we will be swapping speakers, with Brendan Barber addressing the Rome rally and CGIL General Secretary Susanna Camusso addressing ours (by video, in both cases – this isn’t Live Aid!)
They are part of the gradual coming together of European union protests against austerity and will be followed on 14 November by co-ordinated protests in Greece, Portugal and Spain. This week, the European Trade Union Confederation will put the finishing touches to its own, pan-European campaign against austerity and for workers’ rights, based on the European Social Compact adopted this June.
It has taken some time for unions across Europe to co-ordinate their messages, their demands and their action because of different cultures and different timelines for the crisis. There was a series of demonstrations in Madrid, Brussels, Prague and Berlin in June 2009 as the first wave of the crisis broke, and a day of action in European capitals this February under the slogan “Enough is Enough”. But a double dip recession in several countries and the horrendous slumps in places like Greece are leading unions towards tougher and tougher responses, and more and more of them have a European, rather than purely domestic, flavour.
We will see more of this in the coming year, and more fraught electoral contests as we head towards 2014’s European Parliament elections. The power of we is growing across Europe as unions unite with young people, the disabled and pensioners to defend social solidarity and demand a Europe for the people not the rich.