Creating a counterweight and innovatory force for European workers


To celebrate the 40 year anniversary of the European Metalworkers’ Federation (1971 - 2011), the EMF has published a book that provides an overview of the history of the organisation.

The EMF’s history acts as a spur to the continued commitment towards Europe and to the fight for a social Europe.

In this easy-to-read work, the authors accurately trace the development trajectory of the first European federation of metal trade unions.

Initially, the federation’s logistic and administrative capabilities were very modest. The intention was to stay mutually informed and to exchange opinions and positions with regard to collective bargaining. Realistic targets were set and were even modest when measured against the expectations of European trade unions today.

The aim of turning the EMF into a real actor on the European stage gathered considerable momentum once the European Works Council (EWC) Directive was finally adopted. This gave the EMF a foothold regarding action at company level.

At the end of the nineties, this was followed by a concrete form of collective bargaining policy coordination. The adoption of the Wage Coordination Rule, the subsequent issuing of a European negotiating mandate, as well as the agreement on common European-wide collective bargaining demands, represent further milestones in European collective bargaining policy. It was via the goal to energetically drive forward European Social Dialogue that special importance was given to the level on which European trade unions act at the Prague Congress (2003). It was also at the Prague Congress that the EMF was re-organized financially and its structures reinforced.

All this was put to the test when the EMF had to hold its own during the 2008-2010 financial and economic crisis, which has still not been fully overcome.

The EMF has proved that metal trade unions are prepared to contribute to a social and progressive Europe. But, nowadays, the decisions of national governments and political actors are often geared to short-term national political interests and impending elections.

This means that the trade unions have to be the ones to drive forward social progress and some remarkable achievements over the past 40 years can in fact be directly attributed to the metalworkers’ trade unions.

The history of the EMF shows that a long-term, sustainable and persevering strategy can pay off. The EMF’s history acts as a spur to the continued commitment towards Europe and to the fight for a social Europe.

Authors: Yves Clairmont and Klaus Henning

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