Workers can no longer pay the bill of reckless speculators and irresponsible governments.

Date: 11 February, 2020  | Organisation: Public Services International  | Theme: 
  • Debt

Each year since 1970, an average of eight countries have faced a sovereign debt crisis, with each affecting neighbouring countries and trading partners.

Sovereign debt issues will likely affect most workers in the world at some point in their life. When these crises hit, public debt is often presented by journalists, politicians and business as the result of wasteful government spending, overpaid workers and welfare recipients (such as pensioners) bleeding the country dry.

Yet, more often than not, public debt is caused by governments bailing out reckless private speculation, politicians allowing the rich to dodge taxes, corruption and the gifting of unsustainable benefits to wealthy businesses.

In reality it is usually workers, pensioners and users of public services who bear the brunt of debt restructuring through austerity, labour market deregulation and privatisation, even when it is not them who created the problem.

As part of the Citizens for the Financial Justice Project (funded by the EU), in 2019, PSI held a series of seminars across the world – reaching unions from Europe, Latin America and Africa. Thanks to these seminars, over 800 union leaders learned why unions and their workers must better understand how debt is built up, how it impacts workers and what role unions can play before, during and after debt crisis hit.

If unions and workers are informed and vigilant in advance, they cannot be side-lined.  It is for this reason that, in addition to the seminars, PSI has developed, in partnership with UNCTAD, a series of briefs on sovereign debt. In this series PSI presents five related aspects of sovereign and public debt and explains why workers must better understand this phenomenon.

During the seminars, union representatives benefited from the input of experts such as Mark Perera and Iolanda Fresnillo from Eurodad, Jurgen Kaiser from Jubilee Germany, Petra Cicic from Enabanda. At the end of each seminar, lively debates allowed a productive exchange of views and information between unions and CSOs.

PSI Assistant to the General Secretary said: “Workers can no longer pay the bill of reckless speculators and irresponsible governments. Unions and CSOs have a shared responsibility to stand together for establishing a more inclusive global economy.”

Now that the seminars have come to an end and unions are better equipped to face the main challenges that debts crisis pose, PSI is looking forward to further supporting unions to develop an effective voice, to fully engage in social dialogue and defend for workers’ rights.