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The “Education in Crisis” seminar in Brussels on October 18 was hosted by Education International (EI). PSI General Secretary Peter Waldorff was invited to speak about quality public services in the future.
In his speech Peter Waldorff emphasised the need to stop the attacks on collective bargaining that has occurred in many countries as part of the austerity measures.
“Some governments have mistakenly tried to suppress wages to increase economic growth - often based on the prescriptions of the IMF and other European institutions,” he said.
The ILO has recently said that weakening or decentralizing collective bargaining arrangements is likely to lead to more wage inequalities and social instability.
“What we see now is how these actions put downward pressure on wages and working conditions, and suppresses demand at exactly the time when demand needs to be stimulated. The situation for a growing number or workers and their families worsen,” says Waldorff.
And he continues: “They also undermine social cohesion at a time when it is most needed and can lead to reactionary and right wing politics – ie France's National Front.”
“We have never gained without a fight – nothing has come as a nice present. The problem for the labour movement is that we are in a crossfire – from the so-called globalisation and from the fact that union membership is declining.”
We need to find new ways to fight under new circumstances, says Waldorff:
"It is a toxic combination for many people that austerity and weakened collective bargaining goes hand in hand. This is not just a PSI conviction it is shared by many others."
A UN report has recently emphasised how the growing pressure for austerity measures is threatening social protection, public health and education programmes.
"The problem is that most governments do not make any assessment of the social impact of their crisis policy. We – the organised labour – need to reconsider how we respond to the austerity: Are we getting immune to all the belt tightening?"
"Let me remind you that in Spain 19.5% of the population are living below the poverty line. In Hungary 100.000 people are regarded as “unsafe” clients by the banks. In Romania a new austerity package cut 25% of child care benefits, eliminate benefits for young families and freeze benefits for single parents."
"We need to promote Quality Public Services as the necessary way forward if we want to maintain or establish just societies with equal opportunities. We have the policy – the Geneva charter on quality public services – we have the campaign – we need your action and your creativity to secure that we work together to save the world for working people."
Listen to Peter Waldorff's speech (Radio Labour).