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Pre-Congress

EPSU Commissioned Research 'Training, Jobs and Decent Work for Young People'

Monday, May 19, 2014

We have already talked a bit about the youth unemployment crisis that engulfs Europe. 5.4 million young Europeans are unemployed and this present a major challenge to both trade unions and public services across the continent.

This is why EPSU commissioned Nick Clark, Senior Research Fellow - Working Lives Research Institute, to carry out a research project investigating public service employers’ arrangements for the recruitment and training of young workers. The aim was to present and discuss the research and draft a series of recommendations for action by EPSU affiliates at national level as well as initiatives to be considered for implementation at European level.

This briefing paper examines the extent to which young workers are employed in three sections of the public services and are affected by precarious employment in these sectors. It seeks to identify any initiatives taken by employers in the public services to improve the recruitment, retention, training and career development of young workers. Finally, we also enquire into approaches adopted by EPSU affiliates to respond to the challenge posed by the treatment of young workers in public services, whether by collective bargaining, campaigns or internal structures.

Precarious employment clearly poses the greatest danger to young people in work, coupled with scare employment opportunities for those out of work. But the report argues that there is also the danger of losing public service skill and ethos in the younger generation due to the lack of young workers being taken on in the public sector. If Europe’s public administrations simply employed the same proportion of under-25 year olds now as they did at the end of 2008 (when it was already low by comparison with the rest of the economy), over 100,000 more of Europe’s young would currently have a job. This illustrates starkly the under-recruitment into the public sector since the crisis.

The full report "Training, Jobs and Decent Work for Young People" is available here.

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Is the Private Sector Really More Efficient than the Public? We Look at the Facts

Friday, May 16, 2014

More myth-busting, and today it’s a big one: like it or not, private sector management of services is more efficient and less expensive than the public sector. This assumption is so widespread that even many critics of privatisation take it as given. But, a bit like with austerity, you need to look at the evidence, and that’s precisely what this briefing for EPSU, written by the Public Services International Research Unit, has set out to do.

Summarising the main findings from international studies across nine different sectors, the briefing argues that there is no empirical evidence that the private sector is intrinsically more efficient. The same results emerge consistently from sectors and services which are subject to outsourcing, such as waste management, and in sectors privatised by sale, such as telecoms.

After decades of rampant privatisations, there is now the data to compare efficiency, sector by sector, between the private and the public. The briefing is a convincing synthesis of a large number of academic studies, spanning nine sectors,  and concludes that most studies either show the public sector matching private sector efficiency or fail to deliver conclusive evidence that the private sector is more efficient.

Added to this, it points out how many balance sheets of privatisation use measures like costs cut or company profitability by which to judge  success, without taking into account the quality of services. Congress will be debating on Wednesday morning a resolution on quality public services in Europe, for which this briefing provides really excellent background.

You can read the full report on public vs private sector efficiency here, on the EPSU website.

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European Citizens’ Initiative ‘Right2Water’ Historic for European Democracy

Friday, May 16, 2014

One of the major developments in EPSU’s work since our last congress has been our participation in the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) ‘Right2Water.’ An ECI is a new tool for participative democracy envisaged in the Lisbon treaty to allow European citizens to influence the EU policy agenda.

Right2Water was the first ECI to collect enough signatures to trigger the obligatory response from the European Commission.  In fact we far surpassed the threshold, collecting 1.66 million valid signatures from across the EU, making it the first successful ECI in history.

The demands of the ECI were simple: implement the human right to water, do not liberalise water services in the EU and do more to ensure people across the world have access to clean and safe water. In February, representatives of the citizens’ committee met with European commissioner Maroš Šefčovič to discuss the demands. This was followed by a hearing in the European Parliament, which was attended by over 400 people.

EPSU felt that the response of the Commission, which contained no legislative proposals, really lacked ambition in light of the huge groundswell of support for the ECI. We contacted the candidates for Commission president of all five major European political families to ask them to commit to implementing the right to water if elected commission president. Four out of five came out in support of the ECI, with only liberal candidate Guy Verhofstadt not committing. This might reflect the position of the German ALDE member FDP whose former leader has said that water is like bread for which there are also markets.
The change in commission that will follow the European elections presents an opportunity to keep up the pressure to make sure that legislation is proposed to enshrine water as a human right in European law.

We are looking forward to an opportunity at the congress to celebrate all we have achieved with the ECI.

You can also check out the website of the campaign Right2Water for more information on the campaign.

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Austerity Still Isn't Working: The Second EPSU Briefing on Austerity Exposes “The Confidence Myth”

Thursday, May 15, 2014

In yesterday’s review of the first in a series of EPSU briefings on austerity, we talked about how (with the aide of several extended metaphors) austerity causes unemployment and  depresses economic activity. Today, we take up the same thread with the second in the series: “Austerity and Alternatives – Briefing #2: The Confidence Myth.”

You may be asking yourself, ‘why then would anyone want to pursue this disastrous policies?’ Ah! It’s to restore the confidence of the markets you see! This worn-out refrain is trotted out time and time again by the ‘austerians’ to justify massive cuts in public spending and services. But is it true?

This short report shows, using very convincing economic data, how markets react more to the short-term conditions of the real economy, particularly demand, than they do to the long-term expectation of lower government debt. At the same time, consumption and investment, both by households and private-sector actors, are depressed by money being taken out the economy. The theory of the Ricardian equivalency, the idea that when a government tries to stimulate demand by increasing debt-financed government spending, demand remains unchanged, and that there is essentially no difference between improving government balance sheets by tax hikes or spending cuts, is shown to be untrue. The multipliers speak for themselves: the spending cuts are far more damaging to the wider economy.

Yet possibly the most interesting part of the document is the results of a Europea-wide survey conducted by Gallup that shows just how little confidence Europeans have in austerity policies. 51% of the 6000 people surveyed said that they did not think austerity policies were working, 36% said that ‘austerity will work but this takes time’, and a miniscule 5% said unconditionally that ‘yes, austerity works.’ So much for confidence.

Read the full report “Austerity and Alternatives – Briefing #2: The Confidence Myth”, and see how even the IMF is starting to have its doubts.

These publications provide great background for the Wednesday morning panel discussion "The Financial and Economic Crisis: what Type of Economic Policy?", with Elena Flores, Director Policy Strategy and Coordination of the Directorate General for Economic and Financial Affairs, European Commission, Sian Jones, from the European Anti Poverty Network, and Rossana Dettori, General Secretary FP-CGIL.

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Waste and Recycling: Workers at Risk

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The European Trade Union Institute, in collaboration with EPSU, has dedicated the latest edition of its health and safety publication, HesaMag, to the European waste and recycling sector.

This sector is having to meet the challenges posed by globalisation and the growing demand for reusing and recycling waste. The sector is clearly reorienting itself away from disposal (“How to get rid of waste?”) to reuse (“How to make the most of waste resources?”). This ‘green transition’ demands changes in both work organisation and the characteristics of the jobs in the sector.

In Europe, two thirds of waste-management companies are publically funded, but the role of the private sector has grown due to sub-contracting out collection and sorting of domestic waste. However, since the mid-2000s, there have been moves back towards the public-sector in collection contracts in Germany, the UK and France.

Since the crisis in 2008, French multi-nationals Suez and Véolia, both leaders in the waste-management market, have developed cost-cutting strategies, by slashing overtime and not replacing workers who have left the company.

With the aim of tackling environmental problems, the European Commission has set out its objectives for waste-management in its Europe 2020 strategy.  The potential for job creation is key. According to a study conducted by the NGO Friends of the Earth, 50,000 new jobs could be created in waste management n Europe.

For EPSU and the wider trade union movement, these issues present some major challenges: unionising workers in the sector, improving working conditions, and workers’ health and safety.

In the UK, for example, the waste management and recycling sector has the highest level of work-related accidents. In 2012-13, 12 workers lost their lives, a figure that is 16 times higher than the cross-sector average in the UK, according to the Health and Safety Executive.

In Italy, risks have grown and working conditions have worsened for the rubbish collectors. In order to not raise costs due to the implementation of waste sorting, the number of workers has remain unchanged yet the quantity of work has quadrupled.

The participation of workers and trade unions in this ‘green transition is vital to guarantee the sustainability of these new jobs. Social dialogue is a means of achieving a structural involvement of the workforce in this changing industry. 

You can read this edition of HesaMag here, in English and French.

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