”We can change course – we can create our Europe!” That was at the heart of Jan Willem Goudriaan’s message to UNISON’s local government conference this afternoon, when the general secretary of the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU) addressed it.
“Our members spend their lives providing vital services for their communities,” he said.
But “instead of getting money from the bankers who caused the havoc of the financial crisis, they go after our communities – the public services that hold our communities together”.
And he pointed out that “our members were not the ones who were greedy to get another million pounds in their bonus”.
On the local government pay dispute, Mr Goudriaan told them: “You are fighting for a decent pay increase … and the employers claim it would cause financial havoc.”
To loud applause, he described that as “bullshit”.
And widening his theme, he told them: “We want an end to austerity policies in Europe.”
He noted that insecure employment is on the increase across the continent, while people face having to work longer, for lower pensions. At the same time, youth unemployment is rising too – to over 55 per cent in Greece alone.
And he said that, if asked, the people of Europe did not want the continuation of the privatisation of services.
“It’s not a Europe we want,” he said, adding that, in the coming years, tax justice and redistribution of wealth would be core aspects of EPSU’s work.
On the UK, he noted that Prime Minister David Cameron doesn’t want a Europe of social justice.
The Conservative leader’s view of Europe would mean the market, “a Europe skinned down to the bare bone”, a Europe, said Mr Goudriaan, that allows Mr “Cameron to attack employment rights”, but where there is “protection of the financial interests of the City”.
And he explained that EPSU is calling for an investment programme across Europe that could create 10 million jobs.
• EPSU is the largest European trade union federation, representing more than 8 million people working in public services.