Democrat October 2006 Editorial (Number 98)
European Social Model
European Social Model
A TUC General Council report on “Europe” stated: “we need to begin to build a European social model that continues to be the envy of the world”.
In the beginning the Social Charter was dangled in front of the TUC Congress by Commission President Jacques Delors. Without mandates from their national conferences, delegations voted support for European Union in exchange for this four page document which said and gave nothing. The son of this document then appeared as a Social Chapter in the Maastricht Treaty and still gave nothing. Since then the grandson of the Social Charter has been reworded and inserted into the EU Constitution seductively attired as the European Social Model.
EU policies reign
In the meantime, EU policies, directives and regulations over-riding national laws, governments and parliaments have seen the deliberate destruction of the welfare state and social protection. The Thatcher government set the leading example copied by other governments and those putting Euro-federalism into place. The criteria to join the single currency and the Growth and Stability Pact have been the driving force behind culling the public sector and privatisation of everything and anything capital can lay its hands on. New Labour continued these policies in the name of ‘change’.
The TUC Statement on Europe claims: “in places like Latin America they look to the European social model as a model that they would like to emulate”. Bill Lucy a black American trade union official had described to the TUC Congress the private healthcare in America. Billy Hayes Gen. Sec CWU presenting the statement said “it is the type of healthcare that Sir Keith Joseph and Margaret Thatcher could only have dreamed about; the sort of welfare safety net that produced the tragedy in New Orleans where we have seen what the phrase, ‘there is no such thing as society’ really means”.
The TUC and leaders of large trade unions seem to be completely distracted by the words “Social Model” and “Europe” from what is actually going on in Britain, other EU Member States and especially what is happening to their members. These leaders also seem to have conveniently forgotten the reason for their very existence.
The public sector, welfare state, welfare protection and the NHS have largely been or are being torn apart by privatisation. This takes the form of dentists opting out of the NHS, hospital ward closures, highly overpriced hire purchase PFI and PPP schemes. Namely ‘society’ is being torn apart. The NHS used to be the envy of the world but is plainly not the opinion now with bits hived off including NHS Logistics to DHL.
In Britain the telecommunications, electricity, gas, railway and water industries have been taken out of the public sector and sold off to big capital. This has caused huge numbers of job losses. Some of these industries are heavily subsidised by the taxpayer.
In South America these governments are not envious of or copying what is happening in “Europe”, in fact the opposite. Governments are nationalising their energy industries for the benefit of their peoples.
The claim in the TUC statement that the teeth have been drawn from the Services Directive is wide of the mark. The problem was false teeth. The Commission has said it will take no notice of the highly publicised amendments laid down by the European Parliament - the real teeth remain.
The old call for a ‘level playing field’ belies the very competition of the Single Market sanctified in EU law. The labour market is an integral part of the Single free Market and workers are expected to compete with each other. This is the whole object of the migration of hundreds of thousands of workers from east to west Europe.
What has to be done
The labour movements here should be emulating what is happening in South America where they have stood up to the transnational corporations and oil barons instead of hanging onto the coat tails of big capital. Trade unions and the labour movement must return to basic labour and socialist principles to have a rational development of Britain for the benefit of the peoples and especially the working class.
Also see the full text of the pamphlet "Social Europe is a Con" which has sections dealing with ECJ rulings and Mode 4 - free movement of labour between India and Britain. This is available here in pdf format.