European Trade Union Confederation

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ETUC logo.svg
Full name European Trade Union Confederation
Founded 1973
Members 60 million from 39 countries - 90 national trade union confederations
Affiliation ITUC
Key people Ignacio Fernández Toxo, President
Bernadette Ségol, General Secretary
Office location Brussels, Belgium
Country European Union

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) is a trade union organization which was established in 1973 to represent workers and their national affiliates at the European level.

Its role has increased as European integration has expanded EU influence on economic, employment and social policy throughout the 28 Member States.


The ETUC was established in 1973.


At present, the ETUC membership comprises 85 National Trade Union Confederations from a total of 36 European countries, and 10 European industry federations, covering some 60 million individual trade unionists. Other trade Union structures operate under the auspices of the ETUC : EUROCADRES (the Council of European Professional and Managerial Staff) and EFREP/FERPA (European Federation of Retired and Elderly Persons).

The current President, elected in May 2011, is Ignacio Fernández Toxo, Secretary General of CCOO Spain. The General Secretary is Bernadette Ségol, former Secretary General of UNI Europa.


The ETUC's mission is to bring about a united Europe of peace and stability, where working people and their families enjoy full human, civil, social and employment rights and high living standards. To achieve this, it promotes the European social model, combining sustainable economic growth with ever-improving living and working conditions, including full employment, social protection, equal opportunities, good quality jobs, social inclusion, and an open and democratic policy-making process that involves citizens fully in the decisions that affect them.

The ETUC regards workers’ consultation, collective bargaining, social dialogue and good working conditions as key to achieving these objectives and promoting innovation, productivity and growth in Europe.

The ETUC exists to represent the European trade union movement at EU level. It works with the other European social partners (representing employers) and the European institutions to develop employment, social and macroeconomic policies that reflect the interests of workers throughout Europe.

The European social dialogue has brought many results, notably the adoption of some 60 joint texts by the interprofessional social partners: this process supplements the national social dialogues existing in the majority of the Member States.

The European dialogue, which is now structured within the governance of the Union, allows the social partners to make a significant contribution to the definition of European social standards.

The consultations between the social partners began in the mid-60s within the consultative committees, the permanent committee on employment and tripartite conferences on economic and social questions. However, it was in 1985, with the launch of a bipartite social dialogue, promoted by Jacques Delors, the President of the Commission at the time, that the social dialogue at the Community level evolved into a genuine European negotiating forum. The evolution of the social dialogue process has gone through three stages:

I - (1985-1991) During this initial period, the bipartite activities culminated in the adoption of resolutions, declarations and common opinions, which did not have binding force. II - (1992-1999) The second stage was opened with the signature, on 31 October 1991, of an agreement between the social partners, which was subsequently included in the Protocol on Social Policy and annexed to the Treaty of Maastricht in 1991. Thanks to the Treaty of Maastricht, the agreements negotiated by the European social partners could have binding legal effect through a Council decision. In 1997, the 1991 agreement was written into the Treaty of Amsterdam (Articles 154 and 155 TFEU).

In that context, the European social dialogue led to the implementation of three framework agreements (on parental leave in 1995 - renovated in 2009, on part-time work in 1997, and on fixed-term contracts in 1999) via Council directives.

III - (1999-2005) The third stage began in December 2001, when the European social partners presented a "common contribution" to the Laeken European Council. In accordance with the 1991 agreement (Art. 155 par 2 TFEU), this last stage was characterised by an increase in the level of independence and autonomy of the social dialogue.

Since 2002, the ETUC has further expanded its role in EU-level industrial relations, promoting the development of an autonomous social dialogue between workers' and employers' representatives. The social partners have concluded 'autonomous' agreements on :

  • telework (2002)
  • work-related stress (2004)
  • harassment and violence at work (2007)
  • inclusive labour markets (2010)
  • a framework of actions for the lifelong development of competencies and qualifications (2002), and a framework of actions on gender equality (2005).

These are implemented by the social partners themselves at national, regional and enterprise level. The social partners' current Multiannual Work Programme runs until 2014.

The ETUC is the main counterpart to the EU institutions when it comes to representing workers at EU level. Together with the other European social partners, the ETUC works with all the EU governing bodies: Presidency, Council, Commission and Parliament. Its right to represent the interests of European workers in the formulation of EU employment, social and macroeconomic policy is articulated in the EU Treaty. The ETUC:

  • takes part in the annual Tripartite Social Summits;
  • draws up the trade union response to European Commission proposals;
  • liaises with a cross-party Intergroup of MEPs in the European Parliament;
  • coordinates trade union participation in a number of advisory bodies, including the Economic and Social Committee and the EU agencies for vocational training (CEDEFOP), improvement of living and working conditions (Dublin Foundation), and health and safety Agency (Bilbao).

At the biannual meetings of the Macroeconomic Dialogue (MED), established in 1998, the social partners discuss economic policy with the EU Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN), the European Central Bank (ECB), and the Commission.

The ETUC also pursues its campaign for Social Europe through direct action, such as Euro-demonstrations (for example against the Bolkestein Services Directive), and other campaigns. In this way the ETUC takes a lead in important social and employment issues of relevance to all Europeans.

John Monks speaking - ETUC Demonstration, Budapest, 2011

ETUC-affiliated trade union organisations maintain their own decision-making procedures. Delegates from the member organisations decide ETUC policies and activities at European level democratically, and the ETUC itself does not have a mandate to impose a line on national confederations. The ETUC also has its own democratic structure.

The ETUC coordinates the activities of the 44 IRTUCs (Interregional Trade Union Councils), which organise trade union cooperation across national borders in the EU. The ETUC is recognised by the European Union, by the Council of Europe and by the European Free Trade Association as the only representative cross-sectoral trade union organisation at European level.

General Secretaries[edit]

1973: Theo Rasschaert
1976: Mathias Hinterscheid
1991: Emilio Gabaglio
2003: John Monks
2011: Bernadette Ségol

See also[edit]

External links[edit]