Interview with Bernadette Segol, General Secretary, Etuc : "It Is Urgent to Draw Up a European Social Contract"

European Social Policy, November 12, 2012 | Go to article overview

Interview with Bernadette Segol, General Secretary, Etuc : "It Is Urgent to Draw Up a European Social Contract"


The European Union should give up its austerity policies and focus on a European social contract. This is the message that Bernadette Segol, general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), defended at the Tripartite Social Summit, on 17 October. Based on the supporting views of the International Monetary Fund, she urged the heads of state and government, meeting later this week, to adopt concrete measures to assure quality jobs and decent salaries in Europe. IThe ETUC is organising a trade union day of action in mid-November.

What do you expect from this European Council, on 18-19 October?

This summit, focused on growth and jobs, is very important. It represents follow-up on promises - made at the June summit in particular - to lower interest rates for debt-plagued countries and to decouple sovereign debt from public debt. But the ETUC is not seeing anything materialise. To restore stability to the eurozone, it is urgent to keep these promises.

It is also absolutely vital for Europe's leaders to realise that we are headed for disaster with today's policies: austerity is not working and the Commission's optimistic projections for Greece are not being borne out by the facts. Even the International Monetary Fund says so. And if even the IMF - which is hardly reputed for having a social orientation - cannot convince the EU to change the direction of its policy, then I am extremely worried about what is going to happen in the coming weeks and months.

What message will you defend before the Council and Commission presidents at the Tripartite Social Summit?

Our message is the following: social impatience is spreading, especially in the countries with the severest difficulties. It is not enough to talk about growth and jobs. It is urgent to draw up a European social contract based on three pillars. First, collective bargaining and social dialogue must be safeguarded. This dialogue is being attacked, dismantled and weakened in a number of countries, which is not the right solution. It is important to realise that, in order to work out solutions, there have to be discussions with organised bodies like unions and that it is counter-productive to attack or weaken the trade union movement. Second, there has to be a change of economic governance to rekindle growth. It's going to take time to return to a healthy situation of balanced accounts and to give priority to investments and growth. We also need a transparent and regulated financial sector. Third, there has to be economic and social justice. We need redistributive and progressive taxation. …

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