This week the EU has chosen new leaders for its key institutions, but most the candidates are not exactly progressive. One exception is David Sassoli, the Italian chosen to lead the European Parliament for the next 30 months. We sent him an open letter to remind him of his previous commitments to workers’ rights, and make clear how urgently working people in Europe need a new approach.
I am writing to you as the Acting General Secretary of the European Transport Workers’ Federation. We are a trade union organisation representing more than 5 million workers in 41 countries who keep Europe moving on land, at sea and in the air. We congratulate you on your election as President of the European Parliament.
It is welcome news for the ETF and our affiliate unions that this key EU role will go to a progressive figure – especially one who has spent time on the European Parliament’s committee for Transport. Indeed, we can look back on successful collaboration in the past and we remember warmly your support for worker-friendly positions on various transport dossiers.
The nominations for other key positions in the EU Institutions leaves us rather concerned. The rush to find a political deal undermined the democratic process and took us back to the days of secret deals in closed rooms. Europe needed a bold vision which showed clear understanding for the everyday concerns of working people. The result is a series of nominations which look like yesterday’s faces, despite the pleasing balance in gender. The Commission, Council and ECB could soon be led by a new team of neo-liberal austerity champions.
We now look to the European Parliament, the most diverse and democratic of the EU Institutions, to deliver the fresh thinking we need. The workers in my own sector, transport, how vital this is. The creation a single market without a meaningful social framework has helped make transport workers second class citizens. In such a mobile sector, the unfettered single market has allowed social dumping and exploitation. Meanwhile EU policies have permitted or even provoked privatisation, liberalisation, letter-box companies and low-cost models. This has all eroded the rights and working conditions of transport workers. Even worse, transport workers are often excluded from EU social legislation which could help remedy the situation. As a result I see that workers in transport, the most mobile and European of all industrial sectors, are fast losing faith in the European project. We need a new direction.
As the Parliament’s President you have an opportunity to set the tone, and I was pleased to hear you acknowledge the need for an EU that protects workers. EU leaders must show that they understand why so many people in Europe feel lost and uncertain about the future. There are clear and concrete steps the EU can take to close the gap between people’s hopes and their everyday lives, and several proposals can be found in our Manifesto for Fair Transport in Europe. The high point of our Fair Transport Europe campaign saw thousands of transport workers take to the streets of Brussels in support of this vision.
We now hope and expect you to use the influence of your new position to shift the narrative on EU policy. Europe’s working people, and especially its transport workers, are waiting for action.
I would be delighted to meet you soon and discuss these issues further. In any case I look forward to more exchanges in the coming months.
ETF Acting General Secretary