Quality public services: Europe isn’t helping
The European Parliament has today voted through a package of measures known as “economic governance”. It’s a jargon-filled area of political life, but what it means is that the right-wing majority in the Parliament, along with the conservative governments in a majority across the EU, want more austerity and have no other strategy to create growth or jobs. Despite protests from unions and socialists in the Parliament (which at least removed measures that would have restricted collective bargaining), Europe’s elites have agreed that the medicine that isn’t working in Greece – or indeed in the UK – should now be applied everywhere.
Instead, unions want to see real wage growth to promote demand, and quality public services to provide jobs and social proction. Unions around the world are, today – United Nations Public Services Day, launching a worldwide Quality Public Services—Action Now! campaign. The aim is to advance quality public services for all people through unprecedented coordinated solidarity action across borders.
From the American Midwest to the Middle East, Asia to Africa, Europe to South America – private and public sector unions are uniting as never before to defend and advance the quality public services that keep communities strong. Unions are working with a wide range of allies including municipal governments and civil society groups to build sustainable economies that benefit all people – not just a select few.
In South Africa, this means local unions are working with the Durban eThekwini municipality and community partners to advance affordable housing and reliable public water, electricity, sanitation and transport services through a campaign initiated by Public Services International. In Cape Town, this includes providing books to build public libraries in a partnership effort between Education International affiliates and the civil society organisation Equal Education.
In Bangkok, Thailand, railway workers who are members of the International Transport Workers’ Federation are marching with public sector unions to reinforce their message of protest against government privatisation plans.
In Spain, where youth unemployment is shooting past 40-percent under austerity measures imposed by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, leading public and private sector unions are joining forces under the Quality Public Services—Action Now! banner to advance a new social and economic vision.
Solidarity exchanges between American, European, Middle Eastern and North African unions will take place in the coming weeks. In Egypt, leaders of the American Federation of Teachers, whose members in Wisconsin have been stripped of their collective bargaining rights, will meet with the independent Egyptian unions whose call for a general strike proved to be the decisive moment in toppling their country’s corrupt regime earlier this year. However, Egypt’s transitional military council has just banned strikes and sit-ins.
Italian trade union leaders, who are celebrating a national referendum victory that halts moves to privatise water, expand nuclear power, or allow politicians impunity – will visit unions in Wisconsin and across the United States to share experiences and strategies.