More than 100,000 trade unionists from throughout Europe took to the streets of Brussels on 29 September to oppose austerity measures which, if governments do not change direction, will have disastrous social and economic results. Parallel national protests taking place across Europe include a general strike in Spain, and demonstrations in Italy, France, Portugal, Lithuania, Latvia, Germany, Cyprus, Serbia, Poland, Finland and Ireland. Protests already held in Bucharest and Prague brought together more than 20,000 and 40,000 people respectively.
John Monks, General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) which organised the Brussels march, said “Trade unionism is on an unstoppable march for progress, equality and justice, determined to build from the debris of the current crisis, a new, better society where those who are too big to fail cannot be allowed to continue to ignore those who they have regarded as too small to matter.” Along with the actions in Europe, trade unions from across the world are planning events to call for jobs, public services and regulation of banking and finance in the lead up to the World Day for Decent Work, on 7 October.
Tens of thousands of US trade unionists will take part in a rally in Washington DC on 2 October, organised by “One Nation Working Together”, a grassroots coalition advocating the creation, protection and advancement of good jobs. “During this economic downturn, creating good jobs and helping those who have lost their jobs are defining issues not only for Americans – but for all workers throughout the world. We need a global economic recovery that works for all working people,” said Rich Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, which is organising the Washington march along with dozens of civil and human rights organisations.
More than 100 events have already been registered on the World Day for Decent Work website, which tracks activities organised by trade union organisations in the lead up to and during 7 October itself. A major international conference the following week in Geneva will focus on countering the threat to quality public services posed by the growing obsession of governments to implement austerity measures without proper regard to the consequences on social cohesion and employment.
“Working people and those seeking jobs are justified in their anger at having the costs of the crisis forced upon them while bankers, financiers and speculators once again reap the spoils at the expense of the real economy. Tens of millions of jobs have been lost, and 100 million people pushed into absolute poverty in the developing world. Governments, especially the G20, pledged to regulate the finance sector, to create jobs and put the world economy on a sustainable and productive pathway. Yet they are not showing the common will needed to meet these goals. We will continue and step up the pressure until they do,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.