PSI - Our Future Is Public Conference Overview
by Lorrie Vandersluis
For those who are unfamiliar with Public Services International (PSI) is a global union federation for workers in public services, including social services, healthcare, municipal services, central government and public utilities.
*Members: 30 million in 154 countries
*Headquartered: Ferney-Voltaire, France
As many of you know, I am heavily involved in keeping services public municipally, provincially and nationally. COPE/SEPB National delegated me to attend this amazing conference with Luke minded people from all over the world. This was my first international conference. What an incredible feeling it is to work on these global issues, actively participating in making peoples lives better. An incredible privilege and honour.
Attended the second “Our Future is Public” conference in Santiago, Chile. The first was held in Amsterdam in 2019. Well over 1000 leaders attended this 2022 conference to defend global public services. My focus was healthcare and education. My colleague, Maryeve Boyer, attended “Economic Justice and Public Services”, that included taxation, women and Indigenous workers.
To me, the primary objective is to mitigate suffering. We heard many, many examples of how corporate greed is increasing suffering globally with the abuse of essential services. There was a real desire for health care to be governed by the public to keep accountability, including costs under control. Privatization is proven to drive costs significantly higher with quality decreasing.
We learned that many other countries are suffering with the same issues with essential services becoming privatized. Sharing stories is critical. A University of Amsterdam professor had never heard of the Walkerton water scandal here in Ontario and will now use this in examples of what can go wrong.
There are very large corporations driving privatization, including private insurance providers, particularly in health care. We are seeing more and more that health care is becoming a global commodity with a sharp increase in health care on the global stock markets. We can not let this happen! Health care is for all! A right. We and our health care can not become commodities to venture capitalists. In many countries the wealthy have much easier access to health care. There is concern this is promoting “survival of the fittest” and setting us back globally on equity issues. There is a need to have democratic controls.
We had the privilege of a site visit at a public hospital in Santiago, Chile. The physician lead gave us a personal tour. He did point out the the income discrimination in the Chilean health care system where there is approximately 80% private health care. This public hospital is not facilitated with radiological equipments like CT, MRI. Chileans would need to go to a private hospital for those kinds of services. They were very proud of their 2 ultrasound machines. This public hospital felt like a community treasure, with a strong feeling of community ownership. A real sense of pride was the childcare on the hospital site for site. This is available from newborn to after school programming. Again, it was very clear how proud staff were of this childcare program and not looked at like a liability.
There will be a Santiago Declaration on Global Health Care coming. This will also be presented to the World Health Organization for adoption. There is a World Health Care Summit being held in Berlin this year to further mobilize on this issue. This is the beginning of this project but I do feel that by addressing this with solidarity that we can be successful.
Advised that United Nations has agreed to consider a fair taxation convention to look at global tax architecture.
April 7 has been identified as “Peoples Health Day”. #ourhealthisnotforsale
This work does not come without risk. Many countries are wanting privatization. Some citizens in this group are at risk of reprisal, including some countries making travel difficult who take part in anti privatization work. All of our correspondence must therefor be encrypted.
There is NO ACCOUNTABILITY FOR PRIVATE PLAYERS. You do not have to look far in Ontario to realize this. Just look at the situation we found ourselves in during the pandemic in our private nursing homes. The free pass for greedy capitalists needs to stop. Taking our public services back is happening globally, usually after a disaster like we experienced in our nursing homes. There are over 1000 examples where services have gone back to public. There is a term for it called “remunicipalization”. Public, municipal ownership is demonstrating over and over a far higher level of democratic intervention with the involvement of municipalities.
There will be more information coming. We will be working on building knowledge on public ownership. There are transnational databases being developed collecting and mapping cases across countries and sectors.