The crisis and the resort to austerity policies has been increasingly used by a range of governments to launch severe attacks on established fundamental trade union and social rights, particularly on the structures and procedures for social dialogue and collective bargaining. There has been a clearly rising wave of of anti-union policies in a number of countries throughout Europe – both in EU member-states and further afield.

The tide has been often inspired by interests external to the national systems, e.g. the American Chamber of Commerce, associations of foreign investors and agencies specialized in “union-busting”. Unfortumately the conditions in EU country bail-out packages too often lead to similar effects which fuel such destructive tendencies across the region. Governments have followed their advice despite agreements reached by the national social partners on the issues in question and official ILO opinions that such policies constitute clear violations of international labour standards. The new wave of cases has complicated and additionally fuelled the already identified cases of systems “in danger” like Belarus and Georgia.

This priority area raises fundamental challenges for the future work of PERC members as it systematically undermines the legal, institutional and procedural basis for the operation of industrial relations and social protection policies. The complexity of the challenges and the possible damage to the raison d’être of trade unionism makes trade union responses the central priority of work through combining all available channels and instruments for influence within the ILO, CoE/ESC (R) and EU institutions. Successful interventions obviously require maximum cooperation of ITUC HTUR Department, PERC HTUR network and ETUC/ETUI in their respective areas of competence.