Public service workers from around the world travel to attend Public Services International congress.
From as far afield as Egypt, India, Niger, Jamaica, as well Germany, France, Denmark and many more countries, representatives from public service trade unions are attending one of the largest gatherings of international trade unionists in the world.
What exactly is Public Services International and what has it got to do with UNISON?
Public Services International (PSI) is a global trade union federation, which means it brings together public service unions from around the world.
PSI represents 20 million working women and men who deliver vital public services in 150 countries. The organisation champions human rights, advocates for social justice and promotes universal access to quality public services.
So much has been going on in the UK lately that it’s easy to forget that there’s a whole world out there.
And while some of our problems are unique – no one else is leaving the European Union – many of the issues we face as public service workers are also faced by our colleagues around the world.
Local problems need global solutions
The privatisation of public services, the siphoning off of public money into tax havens, the rise in hostility to refugees and ethnic minorities.
These are issues for us in the UK, but they’re also issues being faced by millions of other people around the world.
The people who believe in privatising public services work at an international level: they lobby other governments who speak to ours, and they lobby powerful global organisations like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Companies who avoid paying tax, and therefore take money away from our public services, can only do so because they work at an international level to move money into tax havens.
Why does this matter? If the forces we are up against work internationally, we must too. We must form allegiances with our public service worker counterparts around the world.
It isn’t all doom and gloom though. PSI congress is also about forming bonds, so that we can campaign for what we believe in together.
It is a reminder that we are not alone, there are millions of people out there who believe that public services are vital and should stay public.
Andrew Anderson is a UNISON member who works in mental health.
He is part of the UNISON delegation attending the PSI congress, and he thinks it’s hugely important to show solidarity and meet colleagues from around the world for many reasons, but “mainly to share good practice and support them with the challenges that they face because you never know when we may need their advice, support and encouragement.”
UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis is the president of Public Services International, and he will be addressing the conference on Monday. To keep up with news from the conference follow UNISON international on Twitter and the hash tag #PSIcongress2017, or on Facebook.