European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions
Together for decent work and fair pay from farm to fork

Falling wages casts doubt on recovery, warn trade unions

19/03/2014

Austerity is not working, and a new path for Europe is urgently needed, European trade union leaders warned at an unprecedented union summit in Brussels today.

“Wages are not the enemy of growth. They are the engine,” said Harald Wiedenhofer, General Secretary of the European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions (EFFAT).

“Therefore, we must defend the autonomy of the social partners to safeguard wage levels and working conditions through collective bargaining,” he said.

“Real wages have fallen over the last five years in most EU countries,” said Bernadette Ségol, Secretary General of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC).

Real wages (wages adjusted with inflation, and not taking into account increased direct taxes) have gone down in 18 out of 28 member states countries since 2009 – 23% down in Greece, 12% in Hungary, over 6% in Spain and Portugal, over 4% in the Netherlands and UK.

“Austerity is not working,” said Ségol. “Europe needs a new path. It needs investment to create jobs.”

The ETUC estimates that €250bn over 10 years could create 11m new jobs, and that such an investment represents just a quarter of what was spent to save the banks, and a quarter of what is lost annually through  tax evasion and fraud.

The ETUC points to the fact that:

  • over 26 million Europeans are not working - 10 million more than in 2008
  • 7.5 million young people are neither in work, nor in education, nor training.

Ségol told the trade union summit: “Tomorrow the European Council will discuss economic, industrial and energy policy. These policies could create growth. But they will not – because the industrial policy does not have the instruments to generate jobs, the energy policies lack ambition and the economic policies are based on austerity and deregulation: they are the wrong economic policies.”

She warned that with current EU austerity policies, “Europe faces a lost decade, a lost generation – lost to unemployment, migration, and lost hope.”

The trade unions’ message will be delivered in person by ETUC General Secretary Bernadette Ségol and other union leaders to the Presidents of the European Commission, European Council and Council Presidency who they will meet tomorrow morning at the Tripartite Social Summit just ahead of the meeting of the European Council.

Media contacts
EFFAT: Dominique Mitchell +32 490 56 94 05 or d.mitchell@effat.org 
ETUC: Press and Communications +32 2 224 04 32/431 or media@etuc.org

EFFAT is the European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions. As a European Trade Union Federation representing 120 national trade unions from 35 European countries, EFFAT defends the interests of more than 22 million workers towards the European Institutions, European employers’ associations and transnational companies. EFFAT is a member of the ETUC and the European regional organisation of the IUF.