Social Policy / Energy : Unions Once Again Reject Energy Liberalisation

Article excerpt

Adding its voice to the debate on European energy policy, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) organised a conference criticising the effects of liberalisation on employment in the energy sector. Employee representatives, at the conference on 6 March at the Economic and Social Committee, repeated figures calculating an employment loss of at least 300,000, "mostly" due to liberalisation, privatisation and restructuring. Unions see many more jobs now "threatened" due to increasing outsourcing and pressure on working conditions.

ETUC General Secretary John Monks talked of the failure of liberalisation. "To put it bluntly, most of the time it has led to public monopolies being replaced by private monopolies. Besides, the removal of regulated prices has led to higher, and not lower, energy prices and has created huge uncertainties about investments in the energy sector," said Monks. He had a clear answer as to who is paying for the failure of EU energy policy. "Without any doubt, the workers pay a disproportionate share of the bill," said Monks to an audience mostly composed of employee representatives.

Also picking up on the loss of 300,000 jobs was Jean-Francois Renucci, Deputy General Secretary of the European Mine, Chemical and Energy Workers' Federation (EMCEF). Renucci criticised the Commission's desire to continue with liberalisation as counter-productive as it does not help relaunch investment. "Companies are more interested in strengthening their capital structures so as to avoid being eaten up by others. They are not investing in research and investment," said Renucci. He called for policy to keep all options open and to preserve the energy mix.

Monks stressed that energy intensive industries, due to high prices, are cutting back on operations and considering relocation to other parts of the world. This point was reiterated by Peter Claes, President of IFIEC Europe, the International Federation of Industrial Energy Consumers. "Energy intensive industries are investing where energy is affordable. Is it okay that the EU loses such activities and lets other parts of the world do the job? …