From Socialist Voice, April 2009

“Flexicurity”—Eurospeak for another attack on workers

On 13 December 2007, EU politicians rubber-stamped the Lisbon Treaty to great fanfare in Portugal, while a quarter of a million Portuguese workers protested outside, to almost no media interest.
     One of the reasons for the protest was the fact that, for the first time, the term “flexicurity” and its basic principles were officially adopted by the leaders of the European Union.
     During the discussion between the Irish Government, trade unions and employers at the beginning of February, the air waves and newspapers where filled with this buzzword, which would be a panacea for the staggering job losses—more Eurospeak to cover a potential savage attack on workers’ terms and conditions.
     So what is “flexicurity,” and why has it upset so many trade unionists?
     It is a word invented by the European Commission to suggest that if a worker accepts flexibility, job security at work will follow. This is a complete contradiction, of course. As Derek Simpson, general secretary of Unite, told the Times (London) last year, flexicurity “hides behind the language of equality to propose measures to force exploitation and insecurity onto every worker in Europe.”
     In essence it is a policy designed to remove collective bargaining rights from workers in order to facilitate further EU integration and deepen the so-called internal market.
     However, this has not gone unnoticed by the labour movement throughout Europe. The Cypriot Federation of Labour (PEO) has said that “flexicurity” represents “a very dangerous attempt to completely smash existing labour laws and gains,” increasing the trend towards “casual, uninsured jobs. The changes being sought are aimed in reality at easing labour protection rules, and the abolition of full employment, as well as the marginalisation of collective agreements.”
     Ultimately, flexicurity, EU court judgements and EU rules on “free movement”—all enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty—are the most fundamental attack on trade union rights since the end of the Second World War. To achieve this, the principles of effective and democratic trade unionism are being actively undermined by EU institutions and by those who promote its policies and agenda.

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