European Trade Union Confederation

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European Trade Union Confederation
HeadquartersBrussels, Belgium
45 million from 39 countries, 89 national trade union confederations
Key people
Esther Lynch, General Secretary
Laurent Berger, President

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) is the major trade union organisation representing workers at the European level. In its role as a European social partner, the ETUC works both in a consulting role with the European Commission and negotiates agreements and work programmes with European employers. It coordinates the national and sectoral policies of its affiliates on social and economic matters, particularly in the framework of the EU institutional processes, including European economic governance and the EU Semester.


The ETUC was established in 1973, to coordinate and represent workers and their trade unions at the European level, and has grown as more countries have joined the EU.

Representativeness and constitution[edit]

At present, the ETUC represents almost 45 million workers across Europe, belonging to 89 national trade union confederations from 39 European countries, and 10 European Industry Federations. It includes both a Women's Committee and a Youth Committee, which represent the interests of these two groups within its membership respectively.

In cooperation with the European Trade Union Institute, the ETUC has set up UnionMigrantNet, a network of trade union contact points within the member states, with the aim of assisting migrants and their families. The ETUC coordinates the activities of the 45 Interregional Trade Union Councils (IRTUCs), which organise trade union cooperation across national borders in the EU and defend the right to free movement of workers.

Other trade union structures operating under the auspices of the ETUC are Eurocadres (Council of European Professional and Managerial Staff) and the European Federation of Retired and Older People (FERPA).

Currently, the General Secretary of the organisation is Esther Lynch, who was elected in December 2022. The President is Laurent Berger, from the CFDT in France. The Deputy General Secretary is Claes-Mikael Stahl, and the Confederal Secretaries are Liina Carr, Isabelle Schömann, and Ludovic Voet.

The ETUC's delegate congress, which takes place every four years, approves and amends the constitution and elects its leadership team. All policies and activities are agreed by affiliates' representatives, who maintain their own independence. The 14th congress took place in Vienna in May 2019.

Mission and activities[edit]

The ETUC's mission is to encourage European unity, peace and stability, enabling working people and their families to 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, well-functioning social dialogue and industrial relations, social protection, equal opportunities, good quality jobs, social inclusion, and open and democratic policy-making process that involves citizens fully in the decisions that affect them. At the 2015 Paris Congress, the ETUC agreed on a Manifesto and an Action Programme for four years until 2019. These documents focus on three objectives:

  • A strong economy that serves the people
  • Stronger unions for democratic values and democracy at work
  • A core of ambitious social standards

A strong economy

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 macroeconomic and employment policy is articulated in the EU Treaty. It takes part in bi-annual Tripartite Social Summits; responds to European Commission proposals; liaises with a cross-party Intergroup of MEPs in the European Parliament; and coordinates trade union participation in a number of advisory bodies, including the tripartite EU agencies for vocational training (CEDEFOP), improvement of living and working conditions (Eurofound), and health and safety (EU-OSHA). It works closely with the Workers' Group in the Economic and Social Committee.

At the 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 wants greater trade union participation in economic governance at both EU and national levels. The ETUC supports public investment, a green economy, fair taxation and quality jobs for all. It opposes precarious work and austerity policies.

Stronger unions

The ETUC regards collective bargaining and social dialogue, and workplace and industrial democracy as key to innovation, productivity and growth in Europe. It therefore promotes capacity building for trade unions across Europe. The social dialogue between the ETUC and European employers supplements the national social dialogues in the Member States. The ETUC supports European Works Councils, and workers' consultation and participation in decision-making. EU cross-industry social dialogue was formally launched in 1985, with the support of former Commission President Jacques Delors. It has evolved through three stages: I – (1985–1991) Bipartite activities culminated in the adoption of resolutions, declarations and common opinions, which did not have a binding effect. II – (1992–1999) An accord between the social partners, signed on 31 October 1991 and subsequently annexed to the 1992 Maastricht Treaty in the form of a Social Protocol, enabled European social partner agreements to have legal force through a Council decision. In 1997, the agreement was written into the Treaty of Amsterdam (Articles 154 and 155 TFEU). European social dialogue led to the implementation of three framework agreements (parental leave in 1995 – revised in 2009, part-time work in 1997, and fixed-term contracts in 1999) via EU Directives. III – (1999–2005) In December 2001, 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 moved towards greater independence and autonomy of the social dialogue. Since 2002, 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), a framework of actions on gender equality (2005), and a framework of actions on youth employment (2013).

These are implemented by the social partners themselves at national, regional and enterprise levels. The social partners' new Multiannual Work Programme runs until 2017 and foresees an accord on active ageing. In the field of collective bargaining and wage policy, the ETUC has coordinated affiliates' activities since 1999. In 2012, the ETUC also started to coordinate trade union participation in EU economic governance and the Semester process. Every year the ETUC updates its priorities and initiatives on industrial relations and wage developments, with a view to improving working and living conditions across Europe, achieving better wages for all workers, ensuring equal treatment, combating inequalities, supporting capacity building for sound industrial relations and promote collective bargaining in all EU countries. The ETUC favours a holistic approach to workers' involvement, including stronger information and consultation rights, board-level participation in European company forms, and support for European Works Councils. The ETUC presses for information and consultation for workers, in particular, to anticipate change or company restructuring (to cut job losses), and throughout the subcontracting chain.

Ambitious social standards

The ETUC is committed to pursuing social progress across the EU – an objective enshrined in the EU Treaty. It, therefore, calls for high-quality public services and social protection, gender equality, worker mobility, and high health and safety standards, with an end to social dumping and discrimination. The ETUC defends the European social model as a key factor in promoting not only social justice and cohesion but also economic growth, productivity and competitiveness in the EU. When necessary, the ETUC pursues its vision of Social Europe through direct action, such as Euro-demonstrations and campaigns, and works with civil society partners to achieve social justice and progress for workers and their families across Europe. 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 the European level.

Future challenges

At its Congress in Paris, the ETUC launched a broad discussion on the role and future of trade unionism in Europe, in the face of globalisation and austerity policies affecting society in Europe and the rest of the world. The discussion has been widened to address the future of the EU, facing challenges like the refugee emergency, Brexit, rising populism and xenophobia, and widespread discontent among citizens and workers about their economic and social conditions. The ETUC is launching campaigns and actions, including on a fairer, sustainable economic model, quality job creation, just transition and fair trade, higher pay and wage convergence for European workers, better protection for disadvantaged, precarious and self-employed workers, and more democracy at work, in the economy and in EU institutions.


Affiliate[1] Abbreviation Country
All-Poland Alliance of Trade Unions OPZZ Poland
Association of Estonian Trade Unions EAKL Estonia
Austrian Trade Union Federation OGB Austria
Basque Workers' Union ELA Spain
Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions SAK Finland
Confederation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Serbia CATUS Serbia
Confederation of Christian Trade Unions ACV/CSC Belgium
Confederation of Greek Civil Servants' Trade Unions ADEDY Greece
Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Bulgaria CITUB Bulgaria
Confederation of Labour PODKREPA Bulgaria
Confederation of Malta Trade Unions CMTU Malta
Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey DISK Turkey
Confederation of Public Employees' Trade Unions KESK Turkey
Confederation of State and Municipal Employees BSRB Iceland
Confederation of Trade Unions of the Slovak Republic KOZ SR Slovakia
Confederation of Turkish Real Trade Unions HAK-IS Turkey
Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions TURK-IS Turkey
Confederation of Unions for Professional and Managerial Staff in Finland AKAVA Finland
Confederation of Unions for the Professionals UNIO Norway
Confederation of Unions of Professionals ÉSZT Hungary
Confederation of Vocational Trade Unions YS Norway
Cyprus Workers' Confederation SEK Cyprus
Czech Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions CMK OS Czech Republic
Danish Confederation of Professional Associations AC Denmark
Danish Trade Union Confederation FH Denmark
Democratic Confederation of San Marino Workers CDLS San Marino
Democratic Labour Federation of Cyprus DEOK Cyprus
Democratic League of Independent Trade Unions LIGA Hungary
Democratic Trade Union Confederation of Romania CSDR Romania
Estonian Employees' Unions' Association TALO Estonia
Federation of Trade Unions of Macedonia SSM North Macedonia
Finnish Confederation of Professionals STTK Finland
Forum of Maltese Unions FOR.U.M Malta
Forum for the Co-operation of Trade Unions SZEF Hungary
French Confederation of Christian Workers CFTC France
French Democratic Confederation of Labour CFDT France
General Confederation of Labour CGT France
General Confederation of Labour - Workers' Power FO France
General Confederation of Liberal Trade Unions of Belgium CGSLB/ACLVB Belgium
General Confederation of Labour of Luxembourg OGBL Luxembourg
General Confederation of Portuguese Workers CGTP-IN Portugal
General Labour Federation of Belgium ABVV/FGTB Belgium
General Workers' Union GWU Malta
General Workers' Union - Portugal UGT-P Portugal
General Workers' Union - Spain UGT-E Spain
German Confederation of Trade Unions DGB Germany
Greek General Confederation of Labour GSEE Greece
Hungarian Trade Union Confederation MASZSZ Hungary
Iceland Confederation of Academics BHM Iceland
Icelandic Confederation of Labour ASI Iceland
Independence Trade Union Confederation NEZAVISNOST Serbia
Independent and Self-Governing Trade Union "Solidarność" NSZZ Poland
Independent Trade Unions of Croatia NHS Croatia
Irish Congress of Trade Unions ICTU Ireland
Italian Confederation of Workers' Trade Unions CISL Italy
Italian General Confederation of Labour CGIL Italy
Italian Union of Labour UIL Italy
Liechtenstein Federation of Employees LANV Liechtenstein
Lithuanian Labour Federation LDF Lithuania
Lithuanian Trade Union Confederation LPSK/LTUC Lithuania
Lithuanian Trade Union "Solidarumas" LPSS (LDS) Lithuania
Luxembourg Christian Trade Union Confederation LCGB Luxembourg
Macedonian Confederation Of Free Trade Unions KSS North Macedonia
National Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Romania FRATIA Romania
National Federation of Christian Trade Unions CNV Netherlands
National Federation of Workers' Councils MOSz Hungary
National Trade Union Bloc BMS Romania
National Trade Union Confederation Cartel ALFA Romania
National Union of Autonomous Trade Unions UNSA France
Netherlands Trade Union Confederation FNV Netherlands
Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions LO-N Norway
San Marino Labour Confederation CSdL San Marino
Slovenian Association of Free Trade Unions ZSSS Slovenia
Swedish Confederation of Professional Associations SACO Sweden
Swedish Confederation of Professional Employees TCO Sweden
Swedish Trade Union Confederation LO-S Sweden
Swiss Trade Union Confederation SGB Switzerland
Swiss Workers TravailSuisse Switzerland
Trade Union Andorra USDA Andorra
Trade Union Confederation of Workers' Commissions CC.OO Spain
Trade Union Federation for Professionals VCP Netherlands
Trade Unions Forum FZZ Poland
Trades Union Congress TUC United Kingdom
Turkish Workers' Trade Union Federation TURK-SEN Cyprus
Union of Autonomous Trade Unions of Croatia SSSH/UATUC Croatia
Union of Free Trade Unions of Montenegro UFTUM Montenegro
Union of Independent Trade Unions of Latvia LBAS Latvia
Union of San Marino Workers USL San Marino
Union of Trade Unions of Monaco USM Monaco
Workers' Union - Spain USO Spain

General Secretaries and Presidents[edit]

General Secretaries[2][3] Period Union
Théo Rasschaert 1973–1975 ABVV, Belgium
Peer Carlsen 1975–1976 LO, Denmark
Mathias Hinterscheid 1976–1991 CGT-L, Luxemburg
Emilio Gabaglio 1991–2003 CISL, Italy
John Monks 2003–2011 TUC, United Kingdom
Bernadette Ségol 2011–2015 UNI-Europa, European Trade Union Federation
Luca Visentini 2015–2022 UIL, Italy
Esther Lynch 2022-Present ICTU, Ireland
President[2][3] Period Union
Victor Feather 1973–1974 TUC, United Kingdom
Heinz Oskar Vetter 1974–1979 DGB, Germany
Wim Kok 1979–1982 FNV, Netherlands
Georges Debunne 1982–1985 ABVV, Belgium
Ernst Breit 1985–1991 DGB, Germany
Norman Willis 1991–1993 TUC, United Kingdom
Fritz Verzetnitsch 1993–2003 OGB, Austria
Cándido Méndez Rodríguez 2003–2007 UGT, Spain
Wanja Lundby-Wedin 2007–2011 LO, Sweden
Ignacio Fernández Toxo 2011–2015 CCOO, Spain
Rudy De Leeuw [nl] 2015–2019 ABVV, Belgium
Laurent Berger 2019–present CFDT, France

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Trade Union Confederations (list of member organisations)". European Trade Union Confederation. Retrieved 21 February 2020.
  2. ^ a b European Trade Union Confederation Archives; Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis
  3. ^ a b Biographical dictionary of European labor leaders; A. Thomas Lane; British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data; 1995, ISBN 0-313-26456-2

External links[edit]