(31 October 2023) On 29 September, the EPSU LRG European Conference brought together over 40 delegates and speakers from across Europe to discuss remunicipalisation of public services in Local and Regional Government (LRG), focusing on the climate crisis, gender equality and democratic ownership.
On the climate crisis, Christian Jedinger (Younion, Austria) highlighted its impact on public service workers, including heat-related challenges and stress on health services. He emphasised the need for local trade unions to address climate change, citing examples from Vienna. Eva-Lotta Nilsson (Vision, Sweden) discussed the role of "green reps" in tackling climate change within trade unions, noting the emergence of a trade union climate movement with over 110 representatives. Decarbonisation of buildings, explained by Adrian Hiel (EnergyCities), was identified as a crucial step, with the importance of recruiting and retaining workers and tackling the issue locally.
Different representatives emphasised the significance of public ownership and trade union influence in driving change while also focusing on training workers to enable them to participate in this transformation.
Gender equality was a key theme of the Conference. Ruth Levin (UNISON, UK) discussed the gendered impact of outsourcing services in the UK, particularly affecting female-dominated sectors. Issues such as low pay, the gender pay gap, job insecurity, inadequate training, and pension poverty disproportionately affect women, and even more in outsourced sectors. She advocated insourcing as a solution to improve the situation of women and the quality of public services, citing successful examples of insourcing in the UK.
Tatiana Cazzaniga (FP CGIL, Italy) used the case of cleaning services in public schools in Italy to illustrate the wider neoliberal attacks on public services. In this context, remunicipalisation has improved the working conditions of over 15,000 people. It was also noted that remunicipalisation campaigns offer opportunities to foster solidarity and build alliances, not only with feminist organisations and user associations but also with other trade union sectors facing similar challenges.
The final panel focused on insourcing and democracy. Fabrizio Rossi, Secretary General of the CEMR, noted that failed cases of outsourcing in Europe have led to a shift towards remunicipalisation. He stressed that involving local and regional governments (LRGs) in policy development can address accountability issues and lead to improved public services. Anne Karjalainen (Committee of the Regions) also supported the idea that insourcing can achieve qualitative, transparent, and efficient public services.
Lavinia Steinfort (Transnational Institute) underlined the need for democratic public ownership to defend public services and their missions. Remunicipalisation is a tool to take back ownership from the private sector and empower the public to make decisions and drive change.
Daria Cibrario presented Public Services International (PSI) plan for "Public Services 2.0", highlighting the role of remunicipalisation and democratic control in replacing profit-driven new public management with people-centred public services. Success in this endeavour depends on resource allocation and addressing staff shortages. While some advocate for funding at national level, others explore alternative financing methods. Anne Karjalainen also pointed out that it's not just about funding but also a battle of ideas that trade unions must wage against political forces that advocate the privatisation of public services.
On the eve of the conference the EPSU LRG committee met and was received by the Mayor of Saint Gilles (one of the 19 city councils of the Brussels region) Jean Spinette in the municipal chamber.