The new European treaty: unfair, undemocratic and misguided

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Brendan Barber writes to David Cameron

ETUC Day of Action

29 February 2012

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber has written to the Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to outline the trade union movement's opposition to the new European treaty on stability, co-ordination and governance in the economic and monetary union, and to explain that British trade unionists are having to lobby Governments around Europe as part of an ETUC day of action about the treaty because the UK Government walked out on the negotiations.

The text of the letter to both David Cameron and Nick Clegg follows. Trade unionists are being urged to lobby their MPs through the TUC's Going to Work website.

Treaty on stability, co-ordination and governance in the economic and monetary union: ETUC day of action on Wednesday 29 February 2012

On Wednesday, working people across Europe will engage in a day of action called by the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) to protest about the austerity requirements and undemocratic nature of the proposed treaty. The TUC is a leading member of the ETUC, part of a union family with 60 million members in 36 countries, and I will be taking part in meetings ahead of the European Council with Presidents Barroso and van Rompuy.

However, in Britain, the TUC and our 6 million affiliated members will be lobbying not our own Government, but the embassies and high commissions of the 25 EU member states which are discussing the new treaty. Your decision to walk away from those negotiations means we have no option but to raise our concerns about the impact the treaty will have with other Governments around Europe.

Workers across Europe have many things in common, and what will unite us on Wednesday is our opposition to the treaty's provisions on stability, co-ordination and governance in the economic and monetary union. We will be urging Governments around the EU to commit to an alternative strategy to promote growth, jobs and social justice. The ETUC statement on the treaty - adopted unanimously by trade unionists across Europe - is attached.

The TUC, and union organisations across the continent, oppose this treaty because it is profoundly unfair, undemocratic and misguided.

The treaty is unfair because it doesn't spread the sacrifices fairly: austerity measures fall hardest on the shoulders of the weakest. Workers who have lost their jobs as a result of the crisis will see their social protection lowered; those who still have a job, will see their minimum wages slashed or their collectively agreed wage levels under pressure; ordinary families and communities will see their schools, hospitals and other public services affected by draconian cuts. Young people in particular face a generation of unemployment and exclusion, and workers are being asked to work longer, pay more and receive lower pensions in retirement.

All the while the financial sector continues to thrive and award itself scandalous bonuses instead of lending and investing into the real economy.

It is undemocratic because of the way it has been negotiated and more importantly because it would tie the hands of elected governments, preventing them from boosting growth by adopting counter-cyclical fiscal policies during recessions. This would prevent political parties from campaigning for alternative policies, and drive electorates to turn their backs on Europe and into the hands of extremists.

And finally, the treaty is profoundly misguided. Governments are deluding themselves if they believe that this fiscal compact will bring back market confidence: it will be a straightjacket killing growth. Already, austerity risks forcing countries such as our own back into recession. Where is the growth going to come from when governments cannot invest and when workers do not earn enough to spend in their local economies?

We and union organisations across Europe believe there is an alternative. It includes sustainable investment for growth, support for green jobs, increased demand in surplus countries, fair taxation including a financial transactions tax, eurobonds and the ECB acting as a lender of last resort (as the Bank of England does in the UK). It would enable unions, through a social clause in the European Treaties, to negotiate improvements in wages and working conditions to stimulate demand and produce a fairer Europe.

We urge your Government at the European Council later this week to embrace the union movement's alternative and defend the social model, in the interests of the British people and Europe.

Yours sincerely


General Secretary

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