Ségol elected as unions criticise austerity
The European Trade Union Confederation has elected Frenchwoman Bernadette Ségol as its general secretary for the next four years.
She was elected with more than 92 per cent of the vote during ETUC's congress in Athens yesterday and succeeds John Monks, who had held the post since 2003.
Founded in 1973, ETUC represents 83 trade unions and 12 industry federations across 36 European countries.
Ségol, ETUC's first female general secretary, was previously head of UNI Europa, a federation of unions for services and communications workers. She has sat on ETUC's executive committee since 1985.
Patrick Itschert, the Belgian general secretary of the International Textile Garment and Leather Workers' Federation, will serve as Ségol's deputy, while six other members of the secretariat were also elected.
Monks, in his speech on the opening day of the congress, said Athens had been chosen as the venue because "it is the eye of the storm which threatens Europe and the euro".
"Greece was the cradle of western civilisation," he said. "Now it is the cradle of Europe's economic crisis. The rating agencies circle the country like sharks round a wounded victim; the EU is clearly uncertain about whether to launch another lifeboat."
He said Greece had to take some responsibility for its problems, but criticised the terms of the EU and International Monetary Fund's €110bn bailout as "too tough". Monks praised the EU's initial response to the financial crisis, when banks were "propped up" and stimulus packages implemented to keep the economy afloat.
But when the crisis switched from the banks to the debts of sovereign states, the process became more "tortured and difficult," he said. "What is already evident is that the austerity measures are not working. Growth in Greece and Ireland – and in the UK where the coalition government is prescribing similar medicine – is stagnant.
"The EU must alter its direction of travel," Monks concluded – by focusing on growth, helping young people, emphasising sustainability and combating the rise of the eurosceptic and nationalist right, who "will wreck the EU and their neighbours if they ever come to power".
Today ETUC adopted its Athens manifesto setting out its priorities for the next four years. These include fighting for a European New Deal for workers "against austerity governance, cuts in pay, social security and public services; and for a European economic governance that serves the interests of the European people and not the markets".
Other stated goals include a "coordinated attack on youth employment," an effort to improve working conditions, joint initiatives with employers to create green jobs and a demand for stringent regulation of the financial sector including rating agencies.
The manifesto commits ETUC to supporting EU enlargement by working with its affiliates in Turkey and the western Balkans. It also contains a demand for the right to strike on transnational issues and calls for the creation of a specific labour chamber in the European Court of Justice.