Tracking commitment to Europe’s workers


May 1st calls for a review of promises made.


With last week’s plenary session marking the end of the 2019 – 2024 mandate, Brussels has emptied out of its MEPs, who now turn their attention to campaigning efforts at a local level. As we mentioned last week, the mandate ended with mixed results for European workers, with positive developments in areas such as platform work, combating gender-based violence and banning products made from forced labour being overshadowed by the incredibly disappointing vote on new fiscal rules. Undoubtedly a lot of progress has been made during this mandate, but we have also failed to make strides in key areas for workers in not taking action on growing inequality, adequately funding public services, stamping out privatisation, protecting health and safety and cementing trade union rights.

Politics in Brussels is, as always, a game of compromises, and so many progressive forces can rightly point to concessions made between groups and institutions as the slowdown for progress.

To mark May 1st/Labour Day, we decided to get an overview of the campaign trail from the five main European groups (not including, naturally, ECR or ID). Given the need for consensus, how are some of the key issues for workers addressed across all manifestos, and are the demands of trade unions included throughout the conversations different groups are having?

A quick search across these documents show that the mentions of the following (within all manifestos) are:

  • Workers: 62
  • Trade Unions: 19
  • Mental Health: 6
  • Austerity: 4
  • Health & Safety: 3

Most of the manifestos make reference to the need for quality jobs in Europe, protected during and after the dual green and digital transitions. Workers are clearly a large consideration for these groups, though, remarkably, their health and safety or working conditions are not given the same significance or prioritisation.

Equally mental health and psychosocial risks were clearly massive targets for MEPs and groups throughout the last mandate, with numerous reports, plans and initiatives discussed in the last 18 months in particular. This, however, has not translated to the political messaging ahead of the elections, with very little mention of this important issue.

Positively, trade unions and the need for engagement with them has been consistently seen throughout. Particularly on May 1st, it is encouraging to see that our role is cemented within the thinking of the main groups, who recognise the need to consult with and seek advice from, trade unions and their members.

While the coming weeks will see a winding down in Brussels-based activities, and campaigns will become local and national in their content, it is interesting to see the political markers laid-out by these groups. With many trade union demands included in these brief summaries of priorities, returning candidates who place workers at the heart of their role in Brussels will be crucial in ensuring that next May, we celebrate continued victories post-election.