EPSU/PSI Joint letter to The Economist

Brussels 13 January] Yesterday The European Federation of Public Sector Unions (EPSU) and Public Services International (PSI) sent a joint letter to the editor of The Economist answering the calamitous article that this magazine has published this week.

This is the text:

11 January 2011

Re: “The struggle with public-sector unions should be about productivity and parity, not just spending cuts” and “Public-sector unions have had a good few decades. Has their luck run out?

Attention Editor, The Economist,

While private companies are fundamentally motivated by profit, public services are mandated to serve democracy and the public good. Investment in quality public services benefits current and future generations: wealth is equitably redistributed to citizens through public services such as education and healthcare; private businesses profit through the use of public highways, railroads, justice systems, and well-trained workforces.

The debt crisis facing many governments today was not caused by the amount they spent on any public worker’s paycheque. It was caused by relentless corporate and income tax giveaways, and the amount governments spent to save banks from the consequences of their own greed. The G20 nations put up $11,918 billion in guarantees and liquidity measures, including $1,896 billion in upfront spending. The International Monetary Fund estimates the loss will be 6.8% of GDP for advanced G20 nations.

Financial institutions have made huge profits betting against national economies and driving down currencies. Only 2.5 percent of foreign exchange transactions support trade in goods and services. The rest – measured in trillions of dollars – are speculative. As we’ve seen, when the financiers bet wrong, they get bailed out. Ordinary workers should not be made to pay for this.

Quality public services are even more essential in hard times. They help individuals, communities and businesses to deal with and recover from recession. They help build sustainable economies and just, democratic societies. Public service unions around the world are at the forefront of finding ways to deliver these services effectively and efficiently – because our members want the tools to do a good job for the citizens, communities and nations they serve.

If financial institutions were public utilities, they would be making investments to create new jobs, promote energy efficiency and support national economies. They would be working for us, not betting against us.


Peter Waldorff, General Secretary, Public Services International


Carola Fischbach-Pyttel, General Secretary, European Federation of Public Service Unions

- [to read the article of the Economist

(*Source for the bailout figures cited in this letter: “Why we need public spending” PSIRU publication October 2010 pgs 15-16)