Bringing public service workers’ voices to international fora

(31 October 2018) The 63rd session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), taking place in March 2019, will focus on “Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls” as its priority theme. EPSU was invited to take part in a Working Party on Human Rights of the Council of the EU (COHOM) on 24th October to present our priorities on the theme. The meeting was the first in a series to prepare EU Member States’ position for the CSW’s next session.

EPSU underlined the link between the quality of employment in public services and the quality of public services provided. Only progressively and well-funded public services, guaranteeing decent work and pay and collective bargaining rights for their mostly female workforce can result in high-quality and accessible childcare, healthcare, water, electricity and administration services which contribute to users’ multidimensional well-being – women being at the forefront of them, as well. 

EPSU also drew attention to the dangers associated with the outsourcing and privatisation of public services. Several recent reports have warned against the use of public-private partnerships to deliver public services and goods. Last week, Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, joined those expressing concerns in a report on the topic: “Privatisation is premised on assumptions fundamentally different from those that underpin respect for human rights, such as dignity and equality. Profit is the overriding objective, and considerations such as equality and non-discrimination are inevitably sidelined.”

The International Labour Organisation (ILO), also present at the meeting, focussed their contribution on care services, in light of their recent publication on “Care work and care jobs for the future of decent work”. Key ILO recommendations in this field include the need to recognise and redistribute unpaid care, to reward care workers with more and decent work, and to ensure right to representation, including social dialogue and collective bargaining.

Some of EPSU’s messages on the need for public investment and public provision are also echoed in the ILO report, which underlines that “There is evidence that publicly provided childhood care and education result in high-quality working conditions for care workers” and that “Public provision of care services tends to improve the working conditions and pay of care workers and unregulated private provision to worsen them, regardless of the income level of the country”.

The 63rd session of the CSW is a key moment for public service workers and unions to highlight important equality concerns, such as low pay in female-dominated sectors or  precarious work. As long as these are not addressed through well-funded public services  guaranteeing decent work, pay and right to collective bargaining, women will suffer – as workers and users alike.

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