Speech by PSI General Secretary at the UN Special Thematic Session on Water and Disasters

6 March, 2013
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PSI
People being rescued in boats after Hurricane Sandy, March 2013
Rosa Pavanelli, General Secretary of Public Services International, spoke during a UN Special Thematic Session on Water and Disasters, held at the UN Headquarters in New York on 6 March 2013.

Pavanelli called on government leaders to respect and consult frontline workers who are responsible for disaster preparedness, response and recovery. “We need better tools and training to do our jobs, tools that government must provide instead of the private sector,” she said. “The right to a safe and healthy workplace is fundamental.”

“Some countries don’t let their water workers join trade unions,” Pavanelli added. “That’s unacceptable.” Given this routine violation of international labour law, “How can you expect workers to put themselves in harm’s way when their rights are being violated? All the time, public services are being degraded. I am counting on you to join us to reverse this trend,” she said.

Pavanelli recounted how, during the Mediterranean droughts of the past decade, firefighters – on loan from countries including Spain and Italy, encountered radically different working conditions and equipment standards on the sundered shores of Malta and Greece. Out of this experience, PSI’s European branch, EPSU, has developed an initiative to harmonize worker training, health, and safety across the continent.

Pavanelli demanded that labour be included in conversations of shared governance – an uphill battle in the midst of labour-squeezing national governments and neoliberal international bodies.

“In my view it’s important that all the parts of the so-called civil society are involved. Trade unions are not only social partners, but must be considered as alive actors of civil society.”

Download the whole speech in PDF format.

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