People over profit say global public service union leaders

Thursday, 9 November, 2017

For Didier Baur

Union leaders returned home last week reinvigorated by the debates at the PSI Congress. Inspired by stories of resistance and progressive alternatives from around the world, unions will coordinate their struggles in our countries, in our regions and in global forums to defend the interests of our members and to stand up for public services. The revelations of the Paradise Papers, exposing tax avoidance by companies and wealthy individuals, underline how important these struggles are. You cannot effectively fight this theft of public revenues if at the same time the resources for tax inspection and other state functions are cut.

This was the message EPSU brought to EU finance ministers which met with the social partners in the frame of the macro-economic dialogue. We need an end to austerity and wage freezes in public services. UK civil servants recently endorsed a campaign to end the policy to cap their salary at 1%. Slovak workers will take to the streets on 9, 16 and 23 November with similar demands.

EPSU stressed the need for investment to ensure the quality of public services. Staffing shortages from tax administration to hospitals and elderly care are becoming critical across Europe. And as the Paradise Papers stress: the funding is there. Our message that tax havens need to be closed down is getting across as finance ministers addressed this in their meeting following the macro-economic dialogue. We reminded them that people expect transparency in taxation and that ministers should support public country-by-country reporting.

An end to austerity is needed to make sure that the EU pillar of social rights does not remain a paper commitment. Unions across Europe will stress this in their actions over the coming weeks that will call for a solid implementation of these rights. These lead up to the EU Summit in Gothenburg where the pillar is to be declared on 17 November. EPSU staff joined an action of the Belgian affiliates this week in support of stronger rights and we will ask affiliates to assist in demanding concrete results.

This newsletter is full of news from the work we do in the different sectors and the progress we make in advancing our joint agenda. This is the work of all of us. It is with sadness that I have to commemorate one of us who contributed so much to our work in the utilities and in particular the energy sector, in the social dialogue and European works councils. Didier Baur died in the night of 7 November. Our thoughts go out to his family, his friends and comrades in France and beyond. Representing the French union CGT-FNME he was a great comrade and dear friend. He assisted EPSU with his sharp analysis and dedication to build a strong European trade union movement that would achieve positive change for workers. I dedicate this newsletter to him and to the work you all do in our joint struggle. Thank you Didier. Thank you all.