23 June is International Public Service Day. We celebrate it without the very constringent measures of the worst of the COVID19 pandemic, but we do not forget what this pandemic has meant for public services workers who kept society going... We celebrate the workers who dedicate their lives to providing public services and make sure people enjoy human rights. Waste workers, care workers, librarians, civil servants, prison guards, firefighters, tax collectors, statisticians, engineers, social workers, midwives, receptionists, cleaners… the list could go on, together we deliver for people 24/7
International Public Service Day is a day for these workers.
The early days of the COVID-19 pandemic saw the world celebrating frontline workers cheering and clapping from the confinement of their homes. It was a welcomed token of appreciation – but it is not enough. EPSU calls for change. Applause and kind words are no replacement for higher pay, better working conditions and safe staffing levels. We need to strengthen our public services. They are key to address climate change and bring about social progress and achieve social justice.
Public service workers feel the squeeze of inflation on wages particularly badly. More than a decade of austerity – layoffs, pay freezes, hiring freezes – left many public service workers vulnerable. With inflation within the European Union set to hit 6.8% this year – rising to 9% in the United Kingdom, 9.6% in Serbia and 69.9% in Turkey – it is once again the workers who feel the pinch.
EPSU has long warned of the consequences of liberalisation and commercialisation of public services. They do not bring benefits to working people and remove a pillar of stability from our economies and societies It leads to the siphoning of public money and resources to profit making companies, a prime example is the French multinational care company ORPEA.
Public service workers want change. We have been on the streets and in industrial actions those last weeks for higher pay, better working conditions and more staff. Unless these factors are urgently addressed, public services workers will struggle to deliver the quality services they strive to provide.
And we can be positive. Unions across Europe are proving that change is possible. The waste sector in the UK has recently seen a nation-wide spate of disputes and actions – and workers are seeing success for higher pay… Our German affiliate ver.di has achieved a remarkable success for 330.000 social and educational workers that will get more time off and better pay! Or the Norwegian unions that have achieved major pay rises for municipal and state workers.
Such examples are an inspiration for workers to achieve higher pay and better conditions across Europe and the world.
And today we celebrate those public services workers active in the middle of armed conflict like in the Ukraine. They struggle on a daily basis risking their lives trying to provide energy, water and health services amongst other things to their communities.. Long live public service workers.