European Trade Unions and the Defense of Public Services

Monday, 11 July 2016: 14:45
Location: Hörsaal 16 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Christoph HERMANN, University of California, Berkeley, USA
The recent and in some countries ongoing crisis in Europe was followed by unprecedented austerity programs. Apart from the recipients of social benefits and the users of public services, public sector workers were the main victims of the budget cuts.  In addition to the reduction of employment numbers, governments introduced cuts in public sector wages and pensions, while increasing working hours and weakening employment security. In Southern Europe thousands of workers took to the streets to protest the austerity measures. However, the austerity programs were only the latest chapter in a several decades long history of transformation of public services in Europe which not only includes budget cuts, but also the liberalization, privatization and marketization of service provision. This paper takes the crisis as a starting point to analyze trade union strategies for the preservation and possible expansion of publicly owned and publicly provided essential services in Europe. Apart from strikes, these strategies include concession bargaining, campaigning and the fight for de-privatization. The paper will assess the success of the different strategies and discuss what this means for trade union struggles and for the future of public services in Europe.