PSI Inter-America Health Workers’ Union Federation holds its second meeting

The second regional meeting of PSI Inter-America’s health sector affiliates was held from December 4 to 6, 2023. The creation of a Regional Federation had been endorsed at the first meeting in 2022.  Participants in the 2023 meeting agreed on a formal structure for the Regional Health Workers’ Union Federation and elected representatives from every region of the Americas to carry this important work forward. Eighty-eight leaders from PSI Inter-America’s health sector affiliates in 21 different countries participated in the meeting, over two-thirds of whom were women.

Participants reinforced their shared understanding that health is a fundamental human right and that our governments are responsible for the provision of universal health and care that is equitable, inclusive, and sustainable a.  The protection of labour and union rights for both public and private healthcare workers was also a key theme that was continuously discussed during the three-day meeting in São Paulo, Brazil. The meeting was supported by the Trade Union Solidarity Centre of Finland, SASK.

One of the priorities of the Health Workers’ Union Federation is to influence public policy formulation, emphasizing the importance of high-quality healthcare, operating on the principle that health must always supersede profit. Participants also discussed the need to strengthen and expand representative organizations for healthcare workers, both in the public and private sectors, with a particular emphasis on regional representation.

The Federation establishes a regional forum for discussion, analysis, and support for local unions in the health sector. Federation members support the role of the State as a promoter of participatory democracy and will organize to represent healthcare workers in institutions like the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the regional body of the World Health Organization (PAHO) while strengthening alliances with civil society aligned with the federation's objectives.

Mrs. Perpetual Ofori-Ampofo, the President of the Ghana Registered Nurses and Midwives Association (GRNMA), and current Chairperson of PSI’s West African Health Sector Unions Network (WAHSUN) joined the meeting remotely to share lessons and advice based on West African affiliates’ experiences in organizing health sector unions regionally.

The ongoing crisis in the health sector in Palestine was also discussed. Dr. Salama Abu Zaiter, President of PSI’s affiliate, the General Trade Union of Health Workers – Gaza, was scheduled to participate but with the return of intense bombing in Gaza, he was forced to cancel. In his absence, the recent solidarity event that PSI organized was shared and discussed. Participants reiterated their commitment to organizing local solidarity and calling for an immediate ceasefire.

The regional action plan adopted by Federation members includes interventions in the private health industry, the health supply chain, negotiations with transnational companies, staffing in healthcare and advocating for healthcare workers’ demands in the ongoing negotiations of the WHO Pandemic Treaty. Additionally, the action plan commits members to advocate for awareness and collective action on Artificial Intelligence, recognizing and valuing administrative careers, ratifying ILO conventions, and emphasizing fiscal oversight for the financial sustainability of public health systems.

The elected leadership team includes representatives from every region of the Americas, each with three titular and alternate members. Two coordinators for the Federation were also elected. Carmen Luz Scaff Vega (ANEF, Chile) and Fabio Melo Quintero (SINDISTRITALES, Colombia).