It will be difficult to promote the wage union concept in the EU’s bureaucracy, but Western European trade unions and workers’ associations may as well support it. On the other hand, the interests of multinational companies are contrary to the citizens’ initiative launched in Budapest on 14th March, says Zbigniew Saganski, an advisor for the board of Poland’s Solidarity80 trade union in his interview for Alfahir.hu portal.
What were the expectations of Poland’s Solidarity80 union when they joined the Jobbik-launched citizens’ initiative for a European Wage Union?
We found that Jobbik was a political organization established on the basis of Christian democratic values. We are a trade union that was organized in the wake of the August 1980 events in Poland (the national union for the protection of workers’ rights was established in 1980, and it had a central role in the Polish change of the political system) and we cherish the same values. The citizens’ initiative that we decided to join is completely in accordance with the principles laid down in our charter. We have been involved in the protection of workers’ rights ever since our foundation. Solidarity80 is a member of the Polish federation of unions, where we have already been involved in several initiatives focusing on workers’ rights. When Jobbik contacted us with the wage union concept, it was obvious that we had to join. This citizens’ initiative is an opportunity to finally articulate the issue of the Eastern Central European labour force being exploited by Western Europe and to make a mark in the EU, too.
Besides making a mark, could this citizens’ initiative succeed in enforcing the interests of Eastern European workers? What kind of response do you expect in the EU?
It will be very difficult to promote the wage union concept in the EU’s bureaucracy. However, we believe that initiatives like this could be part of a trend that could later involve other positive steps in the European Union. We have no illusions; we are quite aware that the initiative will be received by a certain kind of indifference, and if it does reach a point where it must be dealt with, it will generate opposition in the Union. On the other hand, we also expect that the people of Western Europe will take notice of the initiative and it will trigger reactions from the society.
Do you think some supporters will join from the Western countries?
Our citizens’ initiative may obviously hurt some lobby interests. I mean some trans-European multinational companies who are definitely interested in maintaining the so-called “brain drain”. However, some Western European trade unions and workers’ associations may even support us.
Beyond the wage union concept, can you envision a closer cooperation in other issues, based on the values of this citizens’ initiative?
This is the first time that we participate in an international initiative like this. As a member of the Polish federation of trade unions, we are happy to cooperate with the unions of other countries, in the Baltic or the V4 states as well. Of course, we do not rule out the possibility of joining other similar initiatives in the future.
REPRESENTATIVES OF EIGHT COUNTRIES FORM CITIZENS’ COMMITTEE
Last December, Jobbik’s president Gábor Vona announced the launch of the campaign for eliminating wage inequalities in Europe. To launch a European citizens’ initiative and make the European Commission put the issue on its agenda, you need to collect one million signatures in seven EU member states within a year. The representatives of eight countries, Hungary, Croatia, Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Latvia and Estonia adopted and signed the declaration of the citizens’ initiative for a European wage union in Budapest’s Hotel Kempinski on 14th March.