PSI unions: We need tax justice to end inequality

21 February 2014
PSI affiliates plan tax justice campaign in Ghana: Reynolds Ofosu Tenkorang, Deputy General Secretary, Health Services Workers’ Union (HSWU), Emilia Codjoe, Ghana Registered Nurses Association (GRNA), Bernard Adjei, Deputy General Secretary, Public Service Workers Union (PSWU).

Public Services International was invited to participate in the Global Fiscal Justice Forum co-sponsored by Tax Justice Network-Africa, Make Tax Fair, International Tax Compact, and OXFAM, 4-8 Feb 2014 in Accra, Ghana.

PSI Ghana affiliate union leaders attended the discussions representing the Public Services Workers' Union of TUC (PSWU), Health Services Workers' Union of TUC (HSWU), and Ghana Registered Nurses' Association (GRNA).

On behalf of PSI and the Council of Global Unions’ Quality Public Services campaign, PSI’s communications coordinator Teresa Marshall was a guest speaker on global campaign planning and collaboration opportunities.

The proven value of public services in addressing inequality, the call for social protection benefits, the need to resource fair and democratic tax collection systems, and links to anti-corruption prompted a great deal of discussion. International campaign partners who also made presentations throughout the conference included the Global Alliance for Tax Justice (GATJ), ActionAid, Latindad, Eurodad, Center for Economic and Social Rights and others.

Outcomes

  1.  PSI Africa national tax justice campaigns
    On the first day of the forum, the PSI Ghana NCC passed a unanimous resolution committing our affiliate unions to joint work on a national tax justice campaign, following the work plan created at the recent meetings in Abuja, Nigeria co-sponsored by PSI and the CGU with ITUC-Africa.

    PSI affiliates in Ghana discussed their vision for moving forward on the tax justice campaign. They are eager to begin and are looking for immediate engagement with PSI and allies for training, strategy-setting and materials development.

    PSI affiliates have also drafted country-specific action plans in Kenya, and in coalition with TUCs in Nigeria, Zambia, EATUC and NOTU regions.

  2. PSI InterAmericas tax justice campaign meeting (with ULATOC anti-corruption forum) 24-26 April, Buenos Aires.
    The forum was a very useful opportunity to network and make connections with a number of contacts who are important as key campaign allies and for economic research resources in the Americas.

  3. OECD BEPS meetings
    Global campaign allies expressed their appreciation for PSI, CGU and TUAC involvement in the OECD Base Erosion and Profit Shifting consultations (noting 95% of submissions have come from business, and that civil society needs to propose alternatives and demand a more inclusive process.) PSI is participating in the next BEPS meeting in Colombia in February. We are exploring holding a joint informational side event with union affiliates during the upcoming BEPS discussions 18-19 March in South Africa.  As the only G20 country in Africa, S. Africa is an influential player, and is also currently engaged in a national tax commission review. Former president Mbeke is also heading up a Pan African High Level Panel on Illicit Flows, due to report in June.

  4. World Public Services Day – 23 June 2014
    It was great to learn that major civil society partners have again identified World Public Services Day as the major day in 2014 for collective civil society global action for tax justice to fund quality public services.  The action outline will be developed further with CGU QPS and global tax justice movement partners.

  5. More opportunities to link tax justice, inequality and human rights

    UN Fiscal Policy and Human Rights
    (June release)
    The United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona, is preparing to submit a report concerning fiscal and tax policy, poverty and human rights at the 26th session of the UN Human Rights Council, 10-27 June 2014. Governments have been asked to provide information on domestic fiscal and spending policies, in particular their impact on disadvantaged and vulnerable groups in society.  The report will include policy recommendations and provide a framework for monitoring States’ compliance with human rights obligations. The standards will offer a practical advocacy tool for civil society organisations.

    Also see the new report of the International Bar Association’s  Human Rights Institute Task Force on Illicit Financial Flows, Poverty and Human Rights  Tax Abuses, Poverty and Human Rights (Oct 2013.)

    Post-2015 agenda

    A new Center for Economic and Social Rights publication highlights the need to address human rights in the post-2015 agenda.

    Guatemala and healthcare

    CESR has done a research report with Centro Internacional para Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos (CIIDH) which links tax justice, human rights and fiscal policy commitments to healthcare (particularly maternal health.) This is useful information for PSI’s solidarity campaign with health workers in Guatemala.

    Egypt

    A new factsheet produced by CESR in collaboration with the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights  provides a concise snapshot of the worrying trends in economic and social rights in the country. ECESR is doing interesting work with women workers and trade unions, particularly in agriculture. Some villages in Egypt have gone on tax strikes to protest the lack of services being delivered.

    Tunisia

    Civil society and trade union groups have been working with the Tunisian Economic Observatory and CESR to ensure the new constitution clearly obligates the state to institute a just and equitable tax system supported by tax evasion and anti-corruption measures.

    Austerity, tax justice and human rights

    This is a focus for useful research and advocacy by the Center for Economic and Social Rights. The tax structure and the level of revenue collection on the one hand, and budget allocations and expenditure on the other, influence the ability of States to fulfill their human rights obligations and tackle discrimination and structural inequalities.

    Spain

    CESR is investigating the applications of austerity policies in Spain as human rights violations.
    Migrant health workers in Spain: Excluding undocumented migrants from health services is a violation of European law

More links of interest

Lagos case study
The Lagos State Internal Revenue Service credits a massive jump in tax revenues to its major public relations effort in the past two years to directly show taxpayers how their money is being spent on quality services and infrastructure. The Lagos IRS has produced a new video “Taxpayers’ money in action” which highlights the many public roads, housing, healthcare, education, energy, judiciary, and food security initiatives that taxpayers have funded in the past two years. ‘Connecting the taxpayer to governance and democracy in a social contract – then you have a stake.’

Political capture and economic inequality
A new report released by OXFAM at Davos 2014 has garnered major media coverage. Working for the Few: Political capture and economic equality warns that the richest 85 people across the globe share a combined wealth of £1 trillion, as much as the poorest 3.5 billion of the world's population.

ActionAid report on tax incentives/exemptions

Predator banks

Also see