ETUC: Europe Must Address its Social Debt
Wednesday 17 October 2012, 04pm
Statement from Bernadette Ségol, ETUC General Secretary and Ignacio Fernández Toxo, President
The debt crisis is being discussed everywhere, as it should be.
But we also focus attention on Europe's Social Debt, if we are to see any resolution of this crisis.
Adjustment programmes concentrate on cuts affecting the most vulnerable, on diminishing social protection and on weakening industrial relations systems.
It is a systematic attempt to dismantle the social model which made Europe a place of advanced democracies and reduced social inequalities.
There is a social emergency in countries of the south and increased levels of inequality everywhere.
Economic programmes are creating unacceptable 'free trade zones' in Europe, putting downward pressure on standards and conditions everywhere. What is being done to workers in Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Spain will come back as a boomerang to hit workers in better off countries.
The situation of young people is intolerable. In many countries youth unemployment is close to or has reached 50%, while precarious working conditions are on the rise throughout Europe.
Austerity is not only leading to a social emergency. Austerity is also failing spectacularly: it does not tackle excessive debt burdens, nor does it restore market confidence. Instead, it further weakens public finances.
Even if Greece or Spain were to run a zero deficit, the debt ratio would still explode because of the collapse of economic activity exacerbated by unsustainable interest rates imposed to meet the expectations of the financial markets.
Casino capitalism is at the root of the problems we face today. This system has failed. But capital does not feel challenged and its operation is still protected. Banks manipulate interest rates through cosy deals, but governments continue to focus on making people pay for banking failure.
The institutions of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary fund must prioritise tax justice, end tax competition and tax evasion and implement a financial transaction tax.
Instead they call for structural reforms, cuts in minimum wages, cuts in pensions, cuts in unemployment benefit. This is unfair and doesn't work. What we need are investments and decent wages leading to sustainable growth.
The ETUC will use its strength and influence to change course. A sustainable route beyond the crisis presupposes the reconstruction and strengthening of mechanisms and policies that contribute to reducing various forms of social inequality, and reverse the tendency towards the excessive concentration of wealth.
The ETUC supports a European Union which promotes good jobs, decent wages, social progress and social justice. We oppose the dismantlement of our social model which serves as a reference and inspiration to workers in the rest of the world.
The ETUC has a different vision for Europe. Those in charge should be aware that we are serious about the demand that social rights should have priority over economic freedoms.
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Bernadette Ségol, ETUC General Secretary
Ignacio Fernández Toxo, ETUC President