The EU and Agenda 2030: Trade union’s dialogue

Helsinki became the European trade unions’ capital of Sustainable Development during the 6 and 7 November as some 50 trade union delegates from across Europe met in the city to discuss the EU’s development agenda with the Finnish EU Presidency and other stakeholders. The ITUC and ETUC co-organised this event with the support of the Finnish trade unions, in the frame of the #timefor8 campaign.

The delegates meeting in Helsinki dedicated the first day to exchange on trade unions’ involvement in sustainable development in Europe and worldwide. The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) presented its strategic approach on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) within the European Semester.

Afterwards, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) presented its work on producing trade union SDG country reports that monitor what national governments are doing to reach the SDGs. The ITUC also talked about its work to get SDG 8 and social dialogue at the centre of the 2030 Agenda. In addition, it presented two tools to support this work. Its campaign #timefor8 – the clock is ticking for a New Social Contract and its SDG 8 Index, which measures progression in carrying out SDG 8 in 143 countries - covering 97.2% of the world’s population.

EU’s sustainable development policy worldwide

As the holder of the current EU Presidency, the government of Finland sets the working agenda and priorities of the EU Council. Therefore, the participation of Ville Skinnari, Finland’s minister for development cooperation and foreign trade, in this high-level dialogue had a relevance that went far beyond the Finnish national agenda. During his intervention, Skinnari showed an openness to work with trade unions. For instance, he said that this EU Presidency will initiate the work on the new EU-Africa Strategy and “work on it together with unions and NGOs.” He also praised the role that unions play in fostering partnerships and stressed the development role unions play: “trade unions are essential for social and economic development”.

Thereafter, the Member of the European Parliament, Udo Bullmann applauded the involvement of trade unions in development cooperation because “we will only have the right policies in place if trade unions and civil society representatives participate.”

The President of SAK, Jaarko Eloranta - speaking on behalf of all Finnish trade unions – reiterated unions’ call to be acknowledged as development actors on their own rights, whose development programmes contribute to achieving the 2030 Agenda.

Finally, Mamadou Diallo, ITUC DeputySecretary General, noted in his concluding remarks: “we all agree on the need to maintain and support the dialogue among all stakeholders, including trade unions, if we want to achieve the SDGs.”


EU puts in action the SDGs at home

The representative of the European Commission, Jeroen Jutte, emphasised the crucial role of social partners in achieving collective bargaining that trigger change and transitions. He also underlined the connection existing between development and social policies and said: “we cannot tackle a new Green Deal and digitalisation without a transformative agenda and the SDGs fit this purpose together with the European Social Pillar”.

Annika Lindblom, the Secretary General of the Finnish national platform for development, stressed that ”economy is not an end in itself, but it should serve sustainable development ”, while the political advisor of the Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, Anna Colombo talked about Just Transition and acknowledged the importance of involving workers in the decisions: “without workers’ involvement there is no industrial transformation”.

In her final remarks, Liina Carr, ETUC Confederal Secretary, concluded that: “SDG 8 is trade unions’ goal and the Agenda 2030 as a whole depends on its achievement”.



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Picture: Finland’s Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade Minister, Ville Skinnari, shows his support to the ITUC’s #timefor8 campaign.