AGS 2016: Cautious thumbs up on social investments – but what about support for public sector workers?

Last week, the European Commission published the 2016 Annual Growth Survey (AGS), jumpstarting the European Semester process for the year 2016. Compared to the preceding 2015 edition, CESI noted some substantial improvements regarding social investments. However, the AGS still does not call to spend more on public sector workers. On the contrary.

AGS 2016: Cautious thumbs up on social investments – but what about support for public sector workers?

On the one hand, the AGS 2016 makes an important reference to the need for increased social investments. In explicitly notes: “It is essential that Member States promote social investment more broadly, including in healthcare, childcare, housing support and rehabilitation services.”

New: References to the need for more social investments

The AGS also states: “Social investment offers economic and social returns over time, notably in terms of employment prospects, labour incomes and productivity, prevention of poverty and strengthening of social cohesion.”
This may be a first indication that the Commission is finally turning away from the ‘Austerity by all means’-approach it has pursed in the past.

One the other hand, however, hidden references to austerity politics are still numerous in the AGS. Most importantly, the AGS reads: “The largest spending cuts planned by euro area Member States for next year are affecting the public sector wage bill and government purchases of goods and services.”
For CESI, which represents numerous trade unions of public sector workers, this is an unsatisfactory statement.
For a long time, CESI has stressed that social investments and quality public services can only work if they are accompanied by adequate support for the employees delivering them. In the end it seems that the Commission is not yet prepared to make a full shift away from the austerity paradigm.

What about support for public sector workers?

CESI Secretary General Klaus Heeger said: “In the past years, public sectors workers across Europe have already experienced heavy cuts and restructuring. They have in fact been more affected than the private sector. In many EU Member States, they are now working beyond their capacities. This is neither sustainable nor fair. ”
He added: “Europe faces huge challenges. Tomorrow’s generations need to be educated, the continent must be defended against terrorist threats and migrants need to be integrated. Here, it is correct to call for more social and public investments – but cutting down on support for public sector workers at the same time is simply not compatible with this.”

CESI will continue to make this opinion heard towards European decision-makers most notably through its active membership in the European Semester Alliance, a broad coalition bringing together major European civil society organisations and trade unions with the aim to support progress towards a more democratic, social and sustainable European Semester.

The 2016 AGS, including all accompanying documents, can be accessed here