Esteemed participants to the conference,
I speak on behalf of 20 million public service workers who keep you and your families safe from harm. They are on the frontlines of natural and man-made disasters, take care of you in hospitals, often losing their lives to save yours, as dramatically happened in the recent Ebola outbreak. They take care of your children in schools and register each individual birth, marriage, in case of divorce, and death. The same workers who ensure that you have water to drink and bathe and electricity so you can stay warm or cool.
Although the provision of public services is directly linked to the responsibilities of the state to govern in the general interest and to fulfil its human rights obligations towards its citizens, the conditions in which our members are operating are in stark contrast with those objectives. In the last decades austerity policies and structural adjustment programmes have transformed 50% of public service jobs into precarious and outsourced contracts, often without the right to collective bargaining nor the right to strike and reduced access to social security and pension rights.
This agenda is dictated by banks and corporates pushing for continued trade liberalization, global tax avoidance schemes and often anti-union policies that are leading to a race to the bottom. To a large extent, the financial crisis has been used to impose such policies.
In a world that is embroiled in conflict and growing inequality the objectives of the ILO Constitution are as relevant as 100 years ago and we strongly defend the principle of universality of labour standards to achieve that goal as well as the need for living wages and social protection for all workers. Commitment to fundamental labour standards needs to be strong and it is unacceptable that any party withdraws from this commitment unilaterally whenever it pleases. PSI cannot believe that within this institution there could be place for those who aim to delete one century of social and economic achievements that our predecessors pursued with the vision of a better future for all. The credibility of this organization depends on it.
The ILO has to be the voice of its membership, driven by a desire to have an impact and work towards positive change and social justice. It is a truly unique organization that is the global parliament of the world of work. Its strength lies in the recognition and respect of the role of the three constituents that are represented here. Therefore, there is no need to include other parties in the debates on the future of work. This is too important an agenda to dilute it.
The Director-General said that the ILO needs to take action since if we do not – others will. The initiative to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the ISO meant that the ILO embarked on a de facto outsourcing and privatization of a standard on management systems for Occupational Health and Safety.
Even if an agreement is reached, an ISO standard does not eliminate the need for a standard under public international law. PSI holds the view that the proposed standard tramples on the ILO’s mandate and that it should be set aside. The ILO needs to create a new international standard and its tripartite constituents have to share the responsibility to work to prevent the deaths of thousands of workers every year.
The challenges we are faced with are of formidable proportion. 2015 is a historical opportunity to change the current global reality. Too many people are suffering because of growing inequality and poverty, desperate for a better life. Universal quality public services, decent work and social protection should be at the very heart of the Post 2015 Agenda. This is not an ideological utopia. This can become the reality if the international community will engage to end tax havens to provide the resources for public investment for an inclusive and sustainable development.
We therefore urge you to join our call for the exclusion of essential public services from the promotion of PPPs as part of the Financing for Development agenda. We have sufficient evidence that PPPs in health, water and sanitation and education do not serve their purpose, do not lead to social development and often are more expensive.
Let us be bold in our ambitions and make the concrete difference the world is waiting for. It is time that the 99% of the world population, we all representing the real world of labour, have our voices heard and that the richest 1% pays its fair share.
The future of work belongs to us.
Listen to the speech (audio file)