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2007 National Delegate Conference
1 June 2007

Conference does not believe that a ‘Social Europe’ which gives priority to the needs of working people and their families is possible on the basis of the fundamental treaties of the EU which promote freedom for capital and monetarist financial policies.

Conference notes that the European Directive on Services was adopted at the end of 2006. Conference welcomes the mass mobilisation of trade unionists from across Europe last year to remove the worst excesses of the Directive. Whilst exclusions were won for health and social services, as well as for labour law and collective agreements, other public services including water and waste will be subject to the new directive.

However, Conference notes that, following heavy lobbying by corporate interests, the Council of Ministers has restored the original purpose of the directive of introducing ‘free-market’ competition to all services within the EU, including health and education. The latest text involves abolishing controls, democratically decided by national parliaments, which impede the free movement of services.

In order to establish this new order, the directive gives the EU’s own European Court of Justice the power to deem which national laws are illegal if foreign and offshore companies do not have total access to service provision markets.

The new text restricts the degree to which member states can regulate service activities within their national borders. This will allow a firm registered in a country with very low standards of labour protection or tax environmental legislation to conduct activities with no regard to national laws.

The directive must now be translated into over 20 languages and there will be an extended period of three years for member states to comply despite the fact that no electorate in Europe has voted for it.

Conference notes that despite the exclusion of health and social services from the Services Directive, the European Commission has subsequently announced plans to bring forward directives for these two sectors which could lead to liberalisation and market competition. The Commission has also pushed for the further liberalisation of postal services and energy markets.

Conference also notes with concern that the European Court of Justice has also made a number of rulings that promote ‘patient mobility’ and a single market for healthcare within the EU, facilitating the enforced privatisation of health services across Europe.

Conference further notes that there is no definition or recognition of public services in either primary or secondary European legislation. Conference welcomes the campaign by the European federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU) for a European framework directive on Public Services and the initiative of the European Trades Union Confederation (ETUC) to launch a Europe-wide petition in support of public services.

Conference further notes with grave concern the call from EU Commission President Barroso in September 2006 for urgent progress towards a ‘new institutional settlement’ for the EU. The Trades Union Congress (TUC) rejected the proposed Constitution in September 2005 when it warned that parts of the non-ratified constitution were being imposed, including the development of EU diplomatic services and the creation of a defence agency to militarise the EU further. At the time it also affirmed that such cherry picking of the discredited constitution should not continue.

Conference calls on the National Executive Council to:

1) closely monitor and campaign around the transposition of the Services Directive into UK law to ensure that there is no further undermining of public services in the process;

2) actively campaign against any European Union proposals to open up health and social services to the market and competition;

3) continue to support the EPSU, European Transport Federation, UNI campaigns for a framework directive on Public Services and to mobilise all trade union members and public service users to sign the ETUC petition;

4) take a lead in EPSU oppose these measures and ensure that the union is regularly working with the socialist group and other allies in the European parliament to ensure that these measures receive maximum publicity in the union and the wider movement;

5) continue to influence the policy of the British government and political parties in this country including using the Labour Link to oppose the introduction of any EU directives that effectively privatise health services and to promote the benefits of keeping essential services in the public sector and under democratic control;

6) continue to raise awareness amongst UNISON members, other UK trade unions and the general public about the role of the European Union in relation to public services;

8) commit itself to develop a campaign of active opposition amongst members, to any attempt to revive the EU constitution in a new form and in support of the existing democratic rights of member states; in particular their right to pursue economic and social policies which defend the interests of working people and restrict the otherwise unfettered power of big business;

9) ensure that the TUC is committed to opposition and takes part in any demonstrations called through the European trade union movement.