Labour Research May 2004

European news

Millions turn out on ETUC protest

The day of action called by the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) in pursuit of more social justice in Europe produced demonstrations across the EU last month.

The largest was in Rome where more than a million people - double the expected turn-out - marched in protest against rising living costs and the government's plans to reduce holidays and pensions (see Labour Research, April 2004, page 8).

Guglielmo Epifani, general secretary of the largest Italian confederation, the CGIL, addressed the demonstrators, asking how the government could fail to see that "the purchasing power of pensions is falling month by month". He promised them that the unions would not allow themselves to be divided on the issue.

In Germany, half a million took to the streets with the biggest demonstration in Berlin, where 250,000 took part. Michael Sommer, president of the DGB German union confederation, said the demonstration was "a clear signal to the rulers" that they should act in line with the electorate's wishes: "creating a more even society, fighting unemployment, respect for employment rights and protection for the weak in society".

There were also a series of actions in France, as well as Slovenia, Hungary and Poland. Reiner Hoffmann, ETUC deputy general secretary, said that the actions "left no-one in doubt that we want more social Europe, and that means a sea-change in policy".