I would like to thank you on behalf of the CGT for this invitation, and to pass on to you the fraternal greetings of all the activists who will participate in demonstrations today. I am very glad to be in Hamburg today for three reasons:
First : To celebrate May Day together
The international dimension, fundamental to the workers’ movement, is very important today: now when high finance is using globalization to pit the workers of the world against each other, we need to reinforce our structures of international cooperation and to anchor them more firmly in our midst.
When,we established May Day at the end of the 19th century, we agreed on a common watchword: the 8-hour day (...) The goal is "work for all, work less, and work better". (…) Together, we wish to promote work time reduction all over Europe. (…)
2- Talking together about Europe
I am very touched by your initiative permitting us, representatives of French, German, and Greek workers, in the presence of Manolis Glezos, to celebrate 70 years of peace. After the horror of two World Wars, Europe was built to guarantee long-lasting peace. The present situation sadly shows us that the founders’ promise is being challenged by the very ways Europe is constructed.
High finance is carrying out a hold-up on Europe. Sadly, today we have evidence that the austerity imposed on us has not only locked us into an economic impasse leading to social catastrophy, but has also become a direct menace to peace. We are witnessing a rejection of Europe and a very disturbing increase in nationalism in a number of countries (…)
With the Troika bent on teaching the people of Europe, especially the Greeks, a hard lesson, the DGB’s position is extremely important in helping to keep employees from taking sides against each other. What you expressed regarding Greece is most appreciated. We must work together with the European Confederation of Labour Unions to increase the number of initiatives in support of the Greeks and make sure their vote is respected.
Contrary to the binary debate in which the liberals and the extreme right want to confine us, the question is not for or against Europe, but rather which Europe we want. Only the coordinated action of all European labour unions can counter policies of social dumping that pit workers against each other (...)
We must multiply concrete demands on a European level as we did with the European investment plan. Our investment plan is not only a lever for the construction of a Europe of full employment, it is also a response to the drama that takes place every day in the Mediterranean with the death of thousands of migrants. It is time to respond to this immense need for solidarity by putting in place a policy of cooperation between Europe and Africa and an investment plan for meeting the needs of all of us, such as access to water, health care, energy.
Governments, echoing business interests, trap us in a logic of cost competition by making the lowering of the "cost of work" a priority. This leads to people being in competition with each other and salaries being dragged down everywhere in Europe.
Salaries and retirement pay have dropped in proportions varying between 20 and 30% in Greece, Spain, Portugal and also in Romania, Hungary and the Baltics. In general, protection through collective bargaining has not ceased to decline in Europe.
As we fight against this low-cost model, the mobilisations that you have initiated and the minimum wage gains that you have made are very important to us. They let us demonstrate that the Hartz reforms, presented as what led to the German model, are instead responsible for destroying the regulations and social compromises built post-war, thus opening up the German model to financialization. Please know that when you succeed in gaining a salary increase in one sector, you are helping all European workers defend their rights.(...)
3- Let us construct together the trade unions of the 21st century
You mobilise against minijobs and precarity, which affect women and young people the hardest. We have the same concerns. We must, as you have done with the minimum wage, reinforce our rights across all professions. (...)
Never have wealth and power been so concentrated: 91% of the population posses 50% of the wealth worldwide.
This increase in inequality has come about because the opposition, in particular trade unions, have been weakened. In France, and I think it’s the case in numerous European countries, we face the huge challenge of reconstruction and of bringing together trade union organisations.
We are the levers of resistance to this logic of commercialisng the world, meaning we have the power to be an effective force. Our independence is seen as troublesome so it is attacked head on. The European Parliament is beginning to debate a very dangerous project: setting guidelines on secrecy in business. Business secrets are defined so vaguely that they can include all types of information, anything that can be passed on to workers’ representatives, which prevents us from communicating to workers and to the press(...)
These guidelines call into question freedom of the press and trade union freedom. They put the interest of multinationals above the general interest. So we have launched a European call to inform and mobilise citizens. The call is signed by the president of the CES and 65 labor union organizations and NGOs from 10 different countries: we hope to be able to work with the DGB on this question as we are doing regarding TAFTA.
As we must remain lucid on the logic of the work, so must we be aware of our power. The worldwide oligarchy concentrates ever more power, but it is still a minority. We are the 99%.
(...) It is up to us to take charge in face of high finance and to insist that the lessons of the crisis have been learned. We must reverse the direction of things and renew social progress.