PSI Speech @ ILC 2023

PSI Assistant General Secretary Daniel Bertossa presents our contribution to #ILC2023: "We urge the Director General to give the role of public services, and the workers that provide them, the attention they deserve in any coalition for social justice".

We are living through a moment of multiple compounding crises. 

The 30 million public service workers represented by Public Services International need a lot more than applause. They demand bold action to reshape our social and economic systems.  

As the DG notes: “Each crisis reveals longstanding weaknesses in our prevailing systems and policies. Beneath these fault lines lie structural inequalities.”  

We cannot address the obscene growth of inequality, injustice, poverty and irreparable damages to our planet with more of the same.  

We agree with the DG that “our global ambition must be commensurate with the scale of challenges faced”.   

We urge the Director General to give the role of public services, and the workers that provide them, the attention they deserve in any coalition for social justice. 

But we will not achieve peace and prosperity though social dialogue if we are hampered by states who demand a seat at the head of the table - but are not committed to the basic principles and core conventions of the ILO.   

Social dialogue is meaningless without social partners who can organise freely and democratically – independent of government and employers.  

Social dialogue is premised on accountability, transparency, and trust between the social partners. 

But no commitment by any government, or employer, can be relied upon if free trade unions are not able to independently hold them to account.   

All governments must respect and implement freedom of association, the right to organise, collectively bargain and the basic right for workers to withdraw their labour. 

The director General also notes how social justice requires dignity, economic security and equal opportunity.  

This means workers must not face discrimination, or violence, in the workplace or in their community. It is unacceptable that over 60 countries have legislation against homosexuality.  

No person is illegal, regardless of their sexuality, origin or political views. Social justice requires universal respect for human rights. There can be no exceptions.  

We urge the Director General to give the role of public services, and the workers that provide them, the attention they deserve in any coalition for social justice. 

Social justice requires states to take their primary responsibility for the realisation of human rights.  

This can only be achieved through well-funded, publicly delivered universal services – not more corporate actors driven by excessive corporate profits.

COVID demonstrated that it is public services – and public service workers – that keep us safe and ensure our economy runs.  

Just a few short years ago everyone applauded and called them “heroes.”  

Yet their rewards are precarious work, low wages, unsafe work, and too often denial of labour rights. 

And we will all pay the price for a covid recovery based on more austerity, privatisation and unjust solutions to sovereign debt crisis.  

Instead, it's time for states to finally reform the broken global tax system. 

This means a 25% global minimum corporate tax based on global profits with a fair distribution of taxing rights to those countries where economic activity takes place. 

And taxes on speculation, capital gains and extreme wealth to fund new green jobs and rebuild infrastructure.  

And as we face new challenges from emerging technologies, we must not leave governance to corporate actors, it's time to reclaim data as a public good, limit its harmful use and build an inclusive co-governance of Artificial Intelligence and digital tools. 

Social justice requires a social redistribution of care. 

Caring for each other, and our most vulnerable, should not be a profit opportunity for corporations. 

We must revalue care work and redistribute it more fairly – ensuring public care for the aged, frail, young and vulnerable based not on profitability but on need. 

Quality care requires valued care workers – they must have adequate staffing levels, fair pay, a safe working environment, and trade union rights. 

And there can be no social justice without radical and swift action on the climate crisis. 

We must not leave the task to the private actors who have created the problem.  

Both the countries that have rapidly industrialised from fossil fuels - and the corporations who have profited - must pay their fair share to mitigate the worst consequences we all now face. 

Workers must be involved in shaping the difficult political decisions required to build a just and sustainable transition at all levels of government – including local and regional government.  

It’s time for governments to take back control of energy production and distribution, provide massive investments in public green energy, and create new green jobs. 

Social justice will only be achieved if we reinvigorate the role of the democratic state – not the market – as the key actor in shaping our collective future. 

Public service workers make social justice happen every single day.  

Navigating these compounding crises - and building a fair, sustainable and equitable world - means building quality public services and supporting the workers that provide them.