European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC)

About ETUC

The ETUC exists to speak with a single voice, on behalf of the common interests of workers, at European level. Founded in 1973, it now represents 83 trade union organisations in 36 European countries, plus 12 industry-based federations.

The ETUC’s prime objective is to promote the European Social Model and to work for the development of a united Europe of peace and stability where working people and their families can enjoy full human and civil rights and high living standards. The European Social Model embodies a society combining sustainable economic growth with ever-improving living and working standards, including full employment, social protection, equal opportunities, good quality jobs, social inclusion, and an open and democratic policy-making process that involves citizens fully in the decisions that affect them.

The ETUC believes that workers’ consultation, collective bargaining, social dialogue and good working conditions are key to promoting innovation, productivity, competitiveness and growth in Europe.


The ETUC campaigns for an EU with a strong social dimension and a balanced macro-economic framework that takes full account of the needs and aspirations of its people. To this end, it is involved in economic and social policy-making at the highest level, working with all the EU institutions: Presidency, Council, Commission and Parliament. This entails
taking part in the annual Tripartite Social Summit each spring, to assess progress on the 2000-2010 Lisbon Agenda;
a right to consultation, with the other European Social Partners, on decisions affecting employment, social affairs and macroeconomic policy;
close liaison with a cross-party Intergroup of MEPs in the European Parliament;
Coordinating trade union participation in a number of advisory bodies, including the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and the EU agencies for vocational training, living and working conditions, health and safety.

Twice a year, meetings are held between the EU Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN), the European Central Bank (ECB), the Commission and the social partners within the framework of the Macro-Economic Dialogue (MED), established in 1998.

The ETUC has played a key role in formulating vital pieces of EU legislation including the European Works Councils Directive (1994), and the Information and Consultation Directive (2002), and in drawing up the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the Lisbon Treaty.


At the same time, the ETUC negotiates with the employers at European level through the "European social dialogue". This is mirrored in the social dialogue, in 35 different industrial sectors so far, coordinated by the European Industry Federations. Following formal EU recognition of the Social Partners’ right to negotiate framework agreements at European level, the ETUC has signed three cross-sectoral European framework agreements with its European employer counterparts, which have been ratified by the Council of Ministers and implemented as Directives:on parental leave (1996), part-time work (1997), and fixed-term contracts (1999). Trade unions and employers themselves are implementing further European-level deals under the system of ’autonomous’ social dialogue, covering conditions for teleworkers (2002), work-related stress (2004), harassment and violence at work (2007) and on inclusive labour markets (2010). Finally, the signing of frameworks of action such as the framework of actions for the life-long learning development of competencies and qualifications (2002) and for equality between men and women (2005) should be emphasised.


To support its claims, the ETUC can call upon its affiliates to take action. It has coordinated major campaigns to achieve the inclusion of new provisions on employment in the EU Treaty, to mobilise voters for European elections, and to strengthen the European Charter of Fundamental Rights and Constitutional Treaty. In recent years the ETUC has organised regular European demonstrations to coincide with EU summit meetings, for example in Lisbon in June 2000, Nice in December 2000 in support of Social Europe, and Laeken (Belgium) in December 2001; as well as Europe-wide Action Days in spring 2003 and 2004, and major Euro-demonstrations on 19 March 2005, 14 February 2006 in Strasbourg against the Services Directive, 5 April 2008 in Ljubljana for more pay and purchasing power and 16 December 2008 against longer working hours. Four major euro-demonstrations to fight the crisis, took place in May 2009 throughout Europe. In September 2010 the ETUC has called an Euro-demonstration against austerity and priority for jobs and growth!


The ETUC decides on all policies and activities through a democratic structure of elected representatives. The Congress is the overall policy-making body. It meets every four years, and also elects the General Secretary. The Executive Committee and smaller Steering Committee are responsible for implementing policy between Congresses, while the Brussels-based Secretariat runs the ETUC’s day-to-day activities.

Contact details

Ms Barbara Boyle
Boulevard du Roi Albert II, 5
B-1210 Brussels
Tel: +32 2-224 04 28
Fax: +32 2-224 04 54 or +32 2-224 04 55
Email: bboyle(a)

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