The Global Health Summit will take place 21 May. It is organised by the European Commission and the Italian Presidency of the G20. It will see government leaders discuss how pandemics can be best prevented and how to improve global public health. EPSU/PSI and global civil society have outlined our objectives through a public consultation. The summit should recognise the right to Universal Health Coverage. Pandemics can only be dealt with effectively if the universal right to health is realised with access to affordable, quality health care. We need more collaboration and action and “global health solidarity” based on principles of human rights and gender equality.
We, along with civil society organisations, stress the need for reform of the global financial architecture. Our joint submission says “All countries should promote tax reforms to increase domestic resource mobilisation up to 5% GDP for health, with an explicit commitment to end “out of pocket” spending.” The groups expect “a political stance to avoid austerity policies…” The Commission and European government leaders that participate (Germany, France, Italy, Russia, Turkey, UK and the EU) should acknowledge the “years of chronic underfunding of health systems”. EPSU and PSI want recognition that there is a need for “an urgent focus on building a strong health workforce as the backbone of quality health systems, also through increased funding to education. Addressing the 80 million frontline health worker gap requires investing in capacity building, infrastructure and fair remuneration for paid and unpaid community health workers, including women.“ The trade unions and civil society groups argue for a new global compact which unambiguously puts people over profit and health before wealth. To realise that vision, progressive taxation is needed, “introducing effective corporate taxes to prevent illicit financial flows and avoid global tax evasion.”
On the eve of the Global Health Summit, EPSU and the Swiss union VPOD will hold a webinar on how privatisation of health and care services undermines care and leads to avoidable deaths. Contributions will be made by union researchers and activists of affiliates from Germany, Spain, Sweden and the UK. To register. The webinar is a continuation of the actions of many unions on global nurses day, 12 May. Unions in health and care organised several protests . The demands are very similar across Europe: more staff and better pay and conditions to deliver quality care.
Tax moved up the EU agenda with the European Commission’s publication of the communication on Business Taxation for the 21st Century. The Commission wants to continue addressing tax avoidance, specifically the loss of up to an estimated EUR 70 bn per year in corporate taxes. It is positive that the Commission is seeking ways to address the race to the bottom in corporate taxes. Proposals are foreseen to make the effective tax rate paid by companies more transparent. The Commission might also introduce a proposal for a financial transaction tax and it has raised again the prospect of a tax on the corporate sector. These proposals could help finance the funding for the recovery. The existing proposals for a Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base have been withdrawn and a new corporate tax rule book is foreseen. The European trade union movement will have to follow these proposals closely to prevent them becoming give-aways to the corporate sector and to make sure that the negotiations in the OECD and G20 lay a good basis for corporate taxation. We agree with the ETUC that without progress at global level, the EU must take the responsibility to introduce a minimum corporate tax rate of 25% on its own.
We cannot neglect the latest developments in the long conflict between Israel and Palestine. After a new night of bombardments on Gaza and rockets on Israel, 217 Palestinians including 63 children are dead and 12 people have died in Israel (18 May). The asymmetry in the conflict is huge, with infrastructure in Gaza being severally damaged, electricity and water services interrupted and health services grinding to a halt. A health clinic was destroyed and there is a shortage of medical products. A years’ long blockade of Gaza is still in place. The international Federation of Journalists deplored the attacks on press centres by Israel’s armed forces in Gaza. ITUC and PSI have condemned the violence and called for an immediate ceasefire, and several affiliates have done similar. The arrests of trade unionists by Israeli security forces shows how the Israeli government is unacceptably intervening in daily life. The PSI statement is clear that the conflict will not be resolved until the root causes, including of the occupied territories, are dealt with, as UN resolutions call for. The European Commission and the European Council should use their (economic) influence to achieve progress. The economic misery and poverty, the utter lack of perspective for a solution are traumatising for young people. A recent ITUC report on the treatment of Palestinian workers who work in Israel underlines the need for a more comprehensive solution that brings justice and peace for Palestine. In its wake, it will do the same in Israel.
Together with ETUC and ETF, we will meet the Romanian unions this week to discuss the Romanian government’s attempts to impose new restrictions on the union movement. Despite the Porto Summit, the Romanian government is refusing to engage in social dialogue and in negotiations with the unions. A similar story is developing in Slovenia where the unions have withdrawn from the social-economic council saying they will not participate in a farce. STAL, the Portuguese union in municipal services is organising strike actions on 20 May for better pay and conditions, and we have sent them a message of solidarity.
23 June Public Service Day
The first pictures are starting to arrive of trade union members supporting the day of action on 23 June, and show members being proud to be part of our European trade union movement. We hope you encourage your activists to do the same. Some unions have put their protests in the frame of the action day, which will increase visibility and strengthen our message for International Public Service Day.