As we commemorate the International Day for Persons with Disabilities on December 3rd, it is essential to reflect on the critical role of inclusivity in our societies. This year's theme, "United in action to rescue and achieve the SDGs for, with and by persons with disabilities," resonates with the recent efforts of Public Services International (PSI) during the 31st World Congress.
Held in Geneva from 14-18 October 2023, the Congress was a beacon of inclusivity highlighting the need for the participation of persons with disabilities in global discussions and decision-making processes. Four trade union members living with disabilities, Musanje Geofrey (Uganda), Andrea Barcelos de Souza (Brazil), Abdoul Adamu (Niger), and Jester Weekes, (Montserrat) had the opportunity to participate throughout Congress, thanks to the cooperation of ACTRAV and GEDI ILO divisions. Their contributions were invaluable and instilled a fresh perspective into the Congress proceedings.
Jester Weekes Montserrat
My union is building a platform for the representation and inclusion of workers living with disabilities. We need to be at the table and advocate for our interests. Nothing about persons with disabilities, without persons with disabilities.
Congress saw active participation from persons with disabilities in pre-events, side events, as well as Congress itself. They contributed to discussions on various topics, such as health, care, migration, digitalisation, and climate change. Their presence and inputs were a testament to the importance of inclusivity in these critical debates.
One of the highlights of the Congress was the intervention by Geofrey Musanje, who emphasized the need for consultations and inclusion of persons with disabilities in decision-making processes to advocate for their rights at work and ensure access to quality public services.
Congress ratified PSI’s commitment to build respect and dignity for all, including persons with disabilities. During the General Discussion on PoA Section 3, interventions from the floor supported the adoption of this section
Persons with Disabilities - Geofrey Musanje
The 31st PSI Congress ratified its commitment and approved a new programme of action to be implemented from 2023 to 2028, to build respect and dignity for all, including persons with disabilities. The programme will prioritise working with affiliates to:
Campaign for the social inclusion of persons with disabilities in public services and public service employment policies and enhance their rights at work in public services.
Advocate within UN bodies and the ILO for standards for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the world of work in public services, including the opportunities arising from the expansion of teleworking and digitalisation.
Continue our work to ratify, implement, and monitor ILO Conventions 111, and 190 using the ILO supervisory mechanism and other human rights regional courts to defend workers with disabilities from discrimination and violence at work.
Advocate for access to inclusive public services for persons with disabilities, decent work, and inclusion of specific clauses for protection from discrimination in Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA), and quotas in public services employment.
Geofrey Musanje Uganda
I am here emphasise the need for consultation and inclusion of persons with disabilities in decision-making processes to advocate for our rights at work and ensure access to quality public services. People with Disabilities over Profit!
A side event on decent work for persons with disabilities was held during Congress. The event aimed to raise the voice of persons with disabilities in PSI’s work, share unions’ experiences in advocating for their rights at work and public services, discuss the ILO’s comprehensive approach to decent work, and build proposals for future engagement, exchange, and collaborative work.
The event was attended by 60 Congress delegates from Kenya, Nepal, Ireland, Brazil, Niger, Chad, Benin, Jamaica, Colombia, Chile, UK, Guyana, Montserrat, Belgium, Australia, France, Japan, Canada, Uganda, Montserrat, Sierra Leone, Peru, and Trinidad and Tobago.
The main items from the meeting include:
Touching opening remarks by Geofrey Musanje, Andrea Barcelos, and Abdoul Adamou who presented their experience as persons with disabilities, and the situation and inclusion of persons with disabilities in their countries, workplaces, and unions. They welcomed the possibility of participating in PSI’s Congress and raised their voice to say, “we are here and plan to stay”.
Abdoul Adamou Niger
Persons with disabilities are not responsible for their own situation. If the whole community supports integration and participation, disability will be taken into account and will soon be overcome. We are here and plan to stay
Nyota Mulcare presented the Montserrat Civil Service Association experience and actions with the support of ACTRAV, and Jester Weekes shared his personal experience of exclusion as well as of support and sang as a calypso singer stating that nothing on persons with disabilities without persons with disabilities.
Nyota Mulcare Montserrat Civil Service Association
Trade unions have to have a social and rights-based understanding of disability and how this applies to the workplace and what role they might take. The Montserrat CSA has a long-term struggle for decent work for persons with disabilities and we demand as an overseas territory to have the same rights
A presentation on the ILO’s comprehensive approach to decent work for persons with disabilities based on a social dialogue system, the overarching legal and policy framework, guarantees provided by the ILO international instruments, ILO statistics on the significant and intersecting gaps for persons with disabilities in their participation in the labour market, the importance of public services unions to build alliances with organisations of persons with disabilities to defend inclusive public services and the specific measures to advance inclusion, using collective bargaining agreements. It was presented by Faustina Van Aperen, Esteban Tromel, and Güler Koca, who also shared her experience as a person living with disabilities. (ILO’s decent work for persons with disabilities PPT presentation. Annex # 1)
A round of interventions from the floor in which participants shared country experiences, asked questions, and made suggestions that were addressed by Esteban Tromel and Andrea Barcelos.
Andrea Barcelos de Souza Brazil
As a union leader since 2006, I've faced major barriers, such as lack of accessibility and discrimination. I'll be fighting to promote and protect the rights of all workers with disabilities to guarantee access to decent working conditions and a society with equal conditions and rights for all.
The meeting acknowledged Rosa Pavanelli’s contributions to the work PSI has done on persons with disabilities in the past years. This includes long-term cooperation with the ILO, the importance of strengthening our influence in changing the world of work, and the inclusion and rights of persons with disabilities in public services. PSI looks forward to Rosa’s continued commitment, political will, and legitimacy to enhance the work around persons with disabilities. PSI will move to the constitution of a consultation group of persons with disabilities, with the initial participation of the four comrades present at Congress.
PSI's 31st World Congress was a significant step towards ensuring the inclusivity of persons with disabilities. As we celebrate the International Day for Persons with Disabilities, the Congress serves as a reminder of the importance of inclusivity in our fight for a more accessible, sustainable world. and committo gain for Persons with Disabilities rights in the world of work and in public services.