Addressing the 12th Congress of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) that began in Athens on Monday, ETUC General Secretary John Monks urged the European Union "to alter its direction of travel" and do more to support economic growth within the countries in crisis, rather than putting emphasis entirely on austerity policies.
"Austerity is not working," Monks stressed, pointing out that growth was stagnant in both Greece and Ireland, but also in the UK where the Coalition Government was "prescribing similar medicine".
He said the ETUC wanted to see European politicians issue Eurobonds to help countries with sovereign debt problems and adopt plans for youth unemployment, while he also pointed to strong support among Europeans for a financial transaction tax.
ETUC President Wanja Lundby-Wedin said the ETUC was against workers paying the price for the crisis and pointed out that wages throughout Europe had fallen but public debt was increasing.
Criticising attitudes that treated labour rights as subordinate to freedom of markets, she said trade unions had to fight in order to make the principle of equal pay for equal work accepted throughout Europe, calling for a 'social progress protocol' to be inserted into the Lisbon Treaty.
Support for such as 'progress protocol' was also voiced by other speakers, while there was agreement that the Euro Plus Pact would be used to further compress wages and the real purchasing power of European workers.