Public sector unions across the Americas have adopted an ambitious action plan to stop free trade, fight privatization, promote quality public services and focus on equality rights. The plan was adopted at a regional conference of Public Services International in Brazil in November.
CUPE was represented at the conference by National Secretary-Treasurer Claude Gnreux, National Executive Board members Donna Ryan and Candace Rennick, and Managing Director of National Services Morna Ballantyne. CUPEs delegation joined representatives of public sector unions from virtually every country in North, Central and South America.
CUPEs delegation made important interventions in the action plan discussions for PSI focused around four related objectives: stopping FTAA, stopping privatization, promoting quality public services, and achieving pay equity and other equality rights for women workers, particularly women of colour.
Ryan, CUPEs regional vice-president for Newfoundland and Labrador, spoke to the conference about CUPEs struggles for pay equity. She reported on the fallout from the recent Supreme Court decision allowing governments to argue they cant afford equality rights like pay equity. Ryan also pledged CUPE’s full support for PSI’s global campaign for pay equity and committed that CUPE would continue to make equal pay a number one priority in Canada.
Delegates at the conference committed to a common fight to achieve pay equity and other equality rights for women, especially women of colour. Our unions delegation, which was 75 per cent women, surpassed PSIs goal that national affiliate delegations be half women by the next PSI World Congress in 2007.
Rennick, CUPEs regional vice-president for Ontario and a youth representative, participated in a PSI youth seminar and presented the youth delegates recommendations to the conference. These recommendations include a call for PSI and all its affiliates to adopt special measures to increase the participation of young members in union activities.
Gnreux gave a presentation on CUPE’s Rebuilding Strong Communities campaign, which is a Canadian component of PSI’s global campaign for quality public services. He emphasized the need to develop concrete alternatives to privatization, the need to work with coalitions and solidarity between unions and with civil society groups. Gnreux stressed the need to take strong action in defence of public services wherever and whenever they are threatened. He also called on PSI to make October 5th a global Communities day.
Ballantyne talked about the critical importance of coordinating the work of the public sector unions in the hemisphere to stop the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). She related Canadian experiences with the North American Free Trade Agreement, including the use of NAFTAs Chapter 11 to erode public services. Ballantyne also called for a coordinated strategy to address the bilateral trade negotiations underway, primarily involving the US. These talks are being used to get around the fact that Brazil and Venezuela are stalling the multilateral FTAA talks.
PSI represents 10 million members in 540 public service unions in 120 countries, including 140 affiliates in North, Central and South America. Visit www.world-psi.org to find out more about the conference decisions and PSI.