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Public transport is a public service: ITF and PSI deepen collaboration

news 12 Oct 2023

While ITF represents public transport workers in cities worldwide, collaboration with our sister global union Public Services International (PSI) is key. PSI-affiliated unions organise workers delivering a wide range of adjacent services in local and regional government and who are affected by similar issues as public transport workers.

Workers across public services have been hit by the same trends in recent decades; successive waves of liberalisation, privatisation and austerity have both diminished our capacity to deliver social and environmental benefits for our societies and eroded labour standards. Nevertheless, as the global unions recently reiterated, governments and multilateral institutions continue to pursue the same neoliberal dogmas in spite of the mountain of evidence of the damaged caused.

However, momentum is building for an alternative vision of public services. Around the world, unions and community organisations are successfully making the case to local, regional and national governments to de-privatise public services and re-prioritise the common good.

ITF and PSI both contribute to Public Futures, an open-access database managed by the University of Glasgow which documents cases of de-privatisation worldwide. The direction of travel is now clear: there is a moderate but growing trend of government taking services back into public ownership and operation, recognising that workers and communities benefit when they are no longer run in the interests of private profit.

The two global unions also coordinate closely on public services advocacy at the international level. In June 2022, in partnership with Building and Wood Workers International (BWI), we hosted the first ever Trade Union and Workers Roundtable at the UN Habitat World Urban Forum. With UN Habitat responsible for implementing Sustainable Development Goal 11 on sustainable communities and cities, it is vital that governments, employers and other stakeholders hear the voices of workers in local public services in this context.

Following this, in October 2022, ITF and PSI were jointly represented at the Congress of United Cities and Local Government (UCLG), the global association of local government and a key employer counterparty. Prior to the Congress, ITF made a submission to UCLG on the importance of gender-equal public transport in cities and its positive impact on both women workers and passengers. This is also a key issue of engagement with the International Association of Public Transport (UITP), with whom ITF holds a global agreement on pursuing gender equality.

Earlier this year, in April 2023, we achieved another breakthrough in delivering a seminar to officials at the UN International Labour Organisation (ILO) on how de-privatisation can help deliver decent work. In parallel, ITF is contributing to a project run by PSI and the associated European Public Service Union (EPSU) to develop educational resources to help unions and community groups win public ownership. These resources will be launched in early 2024, featuring case studies of successful campaigns by ITF-affiliated unions in public transport.

Meanwhile, The Future is Public Transport campaign, launched by ITF and C40 Cities, continues to make the case for public investment in and modal shift to public transport. PSI is supporting the campaign as part of the wider call for public investment in quality public services.

As PSI begins its 31st World Congress in Geneva, we look forward to a future of continued collaboration and further campaign victories with public service workers globally.