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Speech by Esther Lynch at the LO Congress

Kollektivavtal Speech by Esther Lynch, General Secretary, European Trade Union Confederation, at the LO congress 2024.

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Foto: Lars Forsstedt

Dear colleagues, dear friends,

I would like to thank you all for the invitation to join this important Congress.

It is for me an honour to bring to the Congress the message of support and solidarity of the European Trade Union Confederation and of more than 45 million workers and their trade unions that we represent.

Because, colleagues,
Solidarity is at the core of what trade unions are.

We are strong when we are united, when we stick together.

And, colleagues, today more than ever, solidarity is essential, because the attacks against trade unions are becoming stronger and stronger, in Europe and in the world.

Since becoming General Secretary, I have stood on picket lines and participated in demonstrations with thousands of workers throughout Europe.

Decent people.

Hardworking people.

Forced to take strike action to defend their rights, to get a decent pay rise to win a collective agreement.

Forced to take to the streets to defend the vulnerable, to fight for peace, for respect, no matter where we are from or what work we do, or who we love.

Fighting  against the doom spiral of austerity and instead for an economy that rewards work and workers not just wealth.

More than one year ago I was in Tunisia, to express the solidarity of the trade union movement with the Tunisian trade unions against attacks by the government. And I was expelled from the country by order of the President after a peaceful demonstration for trade union rights. 

Trade union solidarity cannot be considered a crime!

And earlier this year I was in the UK to express the solidarity and the support for the TUC in their fight against the government that wants to limit the right to strike.

In Finland trade unions are fighting a similar battle against the far-right government. And the ETUC joined the picket line with Finnish workers and trade unions to combat against the government that wants to restrict the right to strike and introduce social welfare cuts.

And the ETUC, my colleague and Deputy General Secretary Claes-Mikael was present at the picket lines with TESLA workers. And the ETUC stands shoulder to shoulder with Swedish trade unions in this crucial battle.

We have a message for Elon Musk and all the Elon Musks in the world: the green transition won't be built on union busting.

Tesla is a global actor, but so is trade union solidarity. This is not only a fight for the Tesla workers in Sweden, but a crucial fight for the right to strike and the right to collective agreements. The European trade union movement is united behind these principles and behind the workers at Tesla. 

Colleagues and friends, the ETUC is with you in this battle.

And we have to tell to employers, to governments:

Trade unionism is not a crime

Collective action is not a crime

Striking is not a crime

These are fundamental rights – that must ALWAYS be protected

But... union busting, now that is a crime

But, colleagues,

it is not a surprise that unscrupulous employers attack trade unions.

it is not a surprise that the far-right attack trade unions.

Because we are – trade unions are – the collective power of working people.

We are the most important agent of change for social justice in the society.

And – in particular facing threats and difficulties – we need to increase our strength, and we need to stick together, in solidarity.

And I would like to thank very much Susanna Gideonsson for her work as President as LO-Sweden.

Dear Susanna,

Thanks for the great contribution that you have given to the trade union movement, not only in Sweden, but also in Europe.

And let me thank also Therese Guovelin for the important work that she has done representing LO in the ETUC Executive Committee.

We are today facing a social justice emergency. Insecurity and precariousness is the everyday reality of many working people. And the cost of living crisis has made things much worse. Above 10% of workers in Europe are at risk of poverty. 73% of people think their standard of living will decrease in the next year. All this while shareholders keep increasing their revenues.

And the European elections next month will be a key moment to decide how the European Union moves forward.

We need a project of hope that delivers security and safety to workers, improved pay and working conditions, improved living conditions, social justice.

We need a project of hope that supports trade unions, collective bargaining and social dialogue, as key pillar of democratic societies.

We need a project of hope to fight against the fear-based narrative of the far-right.

And we have seen how the fear and hate based approach of the far-right is poisoning the debate and the run up to the European elections.

Brothers and sisters,

To win for working people we need strong trade unions and strong mobilisation of working people.  

The ETUC and the European trade union movement is with you in your struggles and in your battles.

Most of us, no matter where we are, want Europe to be a place where we can work and live in dignity. Every day, in our trade unions, we do our part to get closer to that goal.

In every country, we act collectively for what is right. In every language, we raise our voices for justice.

It is through our struggles at the workplace, in the streets and at the ballot box that we have won the freedom of the weekend, of a paid holiday, the freedom to take a stand for what is right.

There have always been those who use fear and division to attempt to stop us. Now once again, they are threatening to take our victories away from us, to make us work longer and harder.

But we won’t let them silence us.

We will stick together, and once more, we will overcome.