The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) was set up in 1973 to promote the interests of working people at European level and to represent them in the EU institutions.
The process of European integration, with the euro, the European Constitution, and the growing impact of EU legislation on daily life, has changed the setting in which trade unions operate. To defend and bargain for their members effectively at national level, they must coordinate activities and policies across Europe. To influence the economy and society at large, they need to speak with a single voice and act collectively at European level. This is the challenge that the European Trade Union Confederation has taken up.The ETUC’s objective is an EU with a strong social dimension that safeguards the wellbeing of all its citizens. Committed to building a unified European trade union movement, it already had a large number of new trade union affiliates in Central and Eastern Europe before EU enlargement in May 2004.
At present, the ETUC has in membership 83 National Trade Union Confederations from 36 European countries, as well as 12 European industry federations, making a total of 60 million members, plus observer organisations in Macedonia, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Other trade Union structures such as EUROCADRES (the Council of European Professional and Managerial Staff) and EFREP/FERPA (European Federation of Retired and Elderly Persons) operate under the auspices of the ETUC. In addition, the ETUC coordinates the activities of the 44 IRTUCs (Interregional Trade Union Councils), which organise trade union cooperation at a cross-border level.
The ETUC is one of the European social partners and is recognised by the European Union, by the Council of Europe and by EFTA as the only representative cross-sectoral trade union organisation at European level.