EPSU staff joined Belgian affiliates in a protest action in not-for-profit care in Brussels last week. The demands are so similar across Europe: higher wages, better conditions, action to reduce workloads and increase staffing. These are all needed to secure quality care as is the case more broadly across our public services after years of underfunding. On 23 June – global public service day – together we can connect the struggles of unions across our sectors from utilities to home care and from prisons and firefighter services to local administrations. While we are from different countries, we have common demands and a common struggle for public service workers. Our message should be very loud and clear: we do not want a return to austerity; we reject the commercialisation and privatisation of public services; and we seek higher pay, better working conditions and more staff. Europe’s public service unions want a better future for people and quality public services are central to that future.
Unions are getting engaged in many ways. Some actions are already underway:
- There has been strike action in France against possible privatisation and decentralisation of responsibilities for management of those famous routes nationales. Other unions have been protesting against the lack of a decent pay increase for civil servants after years of wage freezes.
- On the 16th Greek workers engaged in another general strike, following up their action on 10th June, opposing unjust labour law reforms.
- Strike action has also been announced by childcare workers in the Netherlands on the 23rd as they try to force employers to address work-related stress.
- UK health workers will make a last push to convince the government that applause is not enough and a decent pay rise is in order on 23-25 June.
- Swiss workers will take to the streets on 26th against the commercialisation of health and of care.
- Slovenian firefighters have announced their strike action for 30th June, on the eve of the Slovenian Presidency.
All these fights are in different countries. They have similar demands – to recognise the role of public service workers and the contribution to society.
On 23rd June, Olivier de Schutter, the UN special rapporteur will join an online panel organized by EPSU to give us an insight in his report to the UN Human Rights Council on how the EU has addressed poverty and the impact of austerity policies on public services. Richard Kozul-Wright, from the UN’s UNCTAD development agency, will also take part. He is leading the debates on financing the Green Deal and how to address public debt and will share his view on the role of public services in the years to come. We are delighted to welcome as well two very well-known journalists – Eve Livingstone and Leigh Phillips – to share stories of what working men and women are doing to improve working conditions. And we share stories of workers’ struggles against privatization and for public service with unions from Greece, Kazakhstan, Norway, Spain, UK and more… Learning from one another what works when we confront the forces of corporate power and their political supporters.
Let’s join and make our common struggle visible. Together we are the voice of Europe’s workers in public services. We are strong together.