FTT should be used to create jobs, says top trade unionist

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A financial transaction tax is needed to repair the damage of the financial crisis, which has cost millions in jobs, and the money should be used to invest in low-carbon growth and employment, said Bernadette Ségol, the newly-appointed secretary-general of the European Trade Union Confederation, in an interview with EurActiv. 

Speaking shortly after her appointment as head of ETUC, Ségol insisted that the FTT should not be seen as a replacement for member states' contributions to the European budget.

"If we have an FTT it should be more for additional investment, growth and jobs, which is our priority, and not to replace income that should be there anyway," she said, alluding to the proposed EU budget for 2014-2020, presented by the European Commission on 29 June.

According to Ségol, social rights have been under attack and even the Commission's recommendations to EU countries on delivering growth and jobs, in the framework of the Europe 2020 strategy, have diminished the European social model.

Instead of saying wages play a constructive economic role and efficient public services are beneficial to Europe's economic model, the Commission is still focusing on more flexibility and liberalisation. "This is an attack," she said.

Ségol insists that flexicurity, a welfare model which combines flexibility and security, only works if money is reinvested into training workers that are made redundant.

"A lot of money is spent in Denmark on flexicurity to make sure that workers who are changing jobs are trained and paid during their training. The amount of money spent [in the EU] for real, negotiated flexicurity shows we have never even seen the beginning of it. The only thing we heard was 'workers should be sacked without any notice'," she said.

The newly-appointed ETUC secretary-general concedes that the workplace is changing and that unions should adapt. But governments and employers should too.

The first testing ground will be revitalising social dialogue at European level, which Ségol believes is incomplete. Social dialogue "has proved effective at national level, and in many respects we would like it to be effective at European level, but that means it has to be taken seriously," she argued.

If social dialogue is effective and all partners adopt a results-oriented approach, Ségol believes a positive outcome can be found on the Working Time Directive, which has stalled for years over disagreements on three crucial points: the opt-out, on-call time and multiple contracts. The failure prompted a host of finger-pointing as to who was to blame.

Negotiations on the Working Time Directive are set to start in the autumn, but employers and trade unions still disagree over the scope of the talks.

"We've told BusinessEurope that we're ready to negotiate but we need preliminary discussions to check that we are on a sound ground. If we are on a sound basis we will start fair negotiations. We are here to negotiate for real, not pretend," she said.

Bernadette Ségol was speaking to EurActiv's managing editor Daniela Vincenti-Mitchener

To read the interview in full, please click here

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