PSI @ ILC 2021: "We need a u-turn before we reach a point of no return." - Full Speech

At the International Labour Conference, PSI has underlined the urgent need for a complete reshaping of the rules of the global economy, with a recovery based on rebuilding quality public services and workers rights.

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Transcript of the full speech:

The 30 million public service workers represented by PSI can tell you what the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic are - even though they are in plain sight.

115.000 health and care workers died last year according to provisional WHO data, and the count is not over.

This is not a pandemic side-effect, this is a crime rooted in decades of ideological underfunding and privatisation of public health, underpaying and understaffing of health and care workers.

Everyone applauded and called them “heroes.” Nevertheless their rewards are precarisation, low wages, unsafe work, along with many other public service workers who made our communities run.

Fifteen months of Covid-19 exacerbated social inequality; but the Build Back Better slogan of the global community is an euphemism for Back to Business as Usual where a public health emergency becomes a private profit opportunity for Big Pharma, IT companies and others.

One health worker dying every 30 minutes becomes just a number in a rhetoric narrative.

Governments who had promised to fight for more tax transparency to fund rebuilding public services now turn a blind eye and conspire behind our backs to reduce our wages and work.

Rich countries seize and stockpile all available vaccines while many others struggle to provide oxygen and other basic treatment to the sick population.

This is an obscene injustice requiring a u-turn before we reach a point of no return.

We must recognize that global, delocalised long supply chains have created dependency over life-saving medical equipment and goods and are responsible for the unpreparedness of many governments.

We need to shorten supply chains and rethink industrial production policy to respond to the needs of each country and their local communities.

Social protection and workplace safety must be recognized as human rights for all. Progress in the implementation of these rights must be monitored. Yes! This means more resources, but no need to invent new Global funds.

Instead, addressing these issues entails reversal of austerity and debt policies and the fundamental reform of the global tax and international financial systems.

PSI welcomes the Biden administration's proposal of a 21% minimum global tax for corporates as the right way to address inequality while rebuilding our economies and preventing other future health and climate crises.

It's time to drive the merchants out of the temple - those who created the problem cannot be part of the solution.

Furthermore, we have a very short time before mutations might render current vaccines ineffective. “No one is safe until everyone is safe” and that should be enough to make rich governments change their minds about the TRIPS waiver.

Big Pharma argues that removing patent protections will dampen the motivation for innovation: but 97% of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccine research was paid with European taxpayer money, while Pfizer received rich Federal Government contributions.

Therefore, it is even more scandalous that the total paid by AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson in dividends and stock buybacks to their shareholders in the past 12 months would have been enough to vaccinate 1,3 billion people: equal to the entire population of Africa.

The ILO, with its mandate for social justice and decent work, must be bold and play a leadership role in the international system, advancing a human-centred recovery from the COVID-19 crisis that is inclusive, sustainable and resilient.