UNISON attends PSI conference in Geneva

UNISON president Libby Nolan led the union’s delegation to the 31st PSI conference in Geneva

On 12-14 October, representatives from UNISON attended the 31st Public Services International (PSI) conference in Geneva. 

PSI is the global union federation for public services workers, UNISON’s international equivalent. It represents 30 million workers in 750 unions across 156 countries and hosts a global conference every five years. Around a thousand delegates attended this year’s conference.

UNISON’s delegation was led by the union’s president Libby Nolan. The union’s general secretary Christina McAnea (pictured) appeared on several panels and chaired the opening panel of the congress, which discussed the problems facing public services worldwide.

UNISON is one of the biggest unions affiliated to PSI and has historically played a leading role in its operations, with former UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis holding the position of PSI president for the last 14 years. Mr Prentis stepped down from his leadership of PSI at this year’s conference.

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “UNISON is proud to be part of PSI, because internationalism is at the heart of our union.

“It’s clear that so many of the issues affecting our members are the same as those affecting working people around the world – discrimination, exploitation and low pay.

“It was uplifting to hear from international delegates, and our own delegates, on the campaigns and battles they’ve been running and winning over the last year.”

UNISON president Libby Nolan, who spoke on a panel about migration and racism, said this was the best conference she had ever been to:

“It was fantastic. I didn’t realise just how much we have in common with public services unions around the world. South Korea, for example, is facing the same kind of anti-trade union laws that we are. Being able to connect with unions in other countries is so valuable. It keeps us a step ahead from politicians, who are always getting their ideas from other governments anyway.”

“Above all, it made me realise how lucky we are to be trade unionists in this country, without fearing for our lives like trade unionists in places like Turkey”

Ms Nolan also said that delegates were conscious of the ongoing siege in Gaza: “It was emotional sitting in front of the Middle Eastern delegations who spoke about Palestine. The PSI conference logo was “people over profit, peace over war” and every time that came up on the monitors, I was conscious of Palestine.”

UNISON’s head of international relations Nick Crook said: “UNISON is a longstanding affiliate of PSI. We’re proud of the role we play and recognise the importance of having a global federation. PSI is our voice to the UN and the ILO and the World Health Organisation.”