A quick piece of news about workers in French water company Veolia:
In a common front, all trade unions in Veolia are engaging in action for decent pay and jobs, 21 May 2014. The company which is going through major restructuring, should negotiate a social plan with the unions that ensures decent pay and guarantees for jobs. The unions are saying no to dismissals. The unions have been outraged by a management that increases its salaries but demands restraint and sacrifices of the workers. Being the largest private water company in the world an exemplary behaviour is expected.
EPSU wants to express its solidarity and support for this struggle and wishes the best of sucess to the workers engaged in this action.
You can find EPSU's solidarity message here, in French.
We have already talked a bit about the youth unemployment crisis that engulfs Europe. 5.4 million young Europeans are unemployed and this present a major challenge to both trade unions and public services across the continent.
This is why EPSU commissioned Nick Clark, Senior Research Fellow - Working Lives Research Institute, to carry out a research project investigating public service employers’ arrangements for the recruitment and training of young workers. The aim was to present and discuss the research and draft a series of recommendations for action by EPSU affiliates at national level as well as initiatives to be considered for implementation at European level.
This briefing paper examines the extent to which young workers are employed in three sections of the public services and are affected by precarious employment in these sectors. It seeks to identify any initiatives taken by employers in the public services to improve the recruitment, retention, training and career development of young workers. Finally, we also enquire into approaches adopted by EPSU affiliates to respond to the challenge posed by the treatment of young workers in public services, whether by collective bargaining, campaigns or internal structures.
Precarious employment clearly poses the greatest danger to young people in work, coupled with scare employment opportunities for those out of work. But the report argues that there is also the danger of losing public service skill and ethos in the younger generation due to the lack of young workers being taken on in the public sector. If Europe’s public administrations simply employed the same proportion of under-25 year olds now as they did at the end of 2008 (when it was already low by comparison with the rest of the economy), over 100,000 more of Europe’s young would currently have a job. This illustrates starkly the under-recruitment into the public sector since the crisis.
More myth-busting, and today it’s a big one: like it or not, private sector management of services is more efficient and less expensive than the public sector. This assumption is so widespread that even many critics of privatisation take it as given. But, a bit like with austerity, you need to look at the evidence, and that’s precisely what this briefing for EPSU, written by the Public Services International Research Unit, has set out to do.
Summarising the main findings from international studies across nine different sectors, the briefing argues that there is no empirical evidence that the private sector is intrinsically more efficient. The same results emerge consistently from sectors and services which are subject to outsourcing, such as waste management, and in sectors privatised by sale, such as telecoms.
After decades of rampant privatisations, there is now the data to compare efficiency, sector by sector, between the private and the public. The briefing is a convincing synthesis of a large number of academic studies, spanning nine sectors, and concludes that most studies either show the public sector matching private sector efficiency or fail to deliver conclusive evidence that the private sector is more efficient.
Added to this, it points out how many balance sheets of privatisation use measures like costs cut or company profitability by which to judge success, without taking into account the quality of services. Congress will be debating on Wednesday morning a resolution on quality public services in Europe, for which this briefing provides really excellent background.
You can read the full report on public vs private sector efficiency here, on the EPSU website.
One of the major developments in EPSU’s work since our last congress has been our participation in the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) ‘Right2Water.’ An ECI is a new tool for participative democracy envisaged in the Lisbon treaty to allow European citizens to influence the EU policy agenda.
Right2Water was the first ECI to collect enough signatures to trigger the obligatory response from the European Commission. In fact we far surpassed the threshold, collecting 1.66 million valid signatures from across the EU, making it the first successful ECI in history.
The demands of the ECI were simple: implement the human right to water, do not liberalise water services in the EU and do more to ensure people across the world have access to clean and safe water. In February, representatives of the citizens’ committee met with European commissioner Maroš Šefčovič to discuss the demands. This was followed by a hearing in the European Parliament, which was attended by over 400 people.
EPSU felt that the response of the Commission, which contained no legislative proposals, really lacked ambition in light of the huge groundswell of support for the ECI. We contacted the candidates for Commission president of all five major European political families to ask them to commit to implementing the right to water if elected commission president. Four out of five came out in support of the ECI, with only liberal candidate Guy Verhofstadt not committing. This might reflect the position of the German ALDE member FDP whose former leader has said that water is like bread for which there are also markets.
The change in commission that will follow the European elections presents an opportunity to keep up the pressure to make sure that legislation is proposed to enshrine water as a human right in European law.
We are looking forward to an opportunity at the congress to celebrate all we have achieved with the ECI.
You can also check out the website of the campaign Right2Water for more information on the campaign.