Joint conference on austerity and public services

25 Jun 2024

The European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF), along with EPSU and ETUCE, organized a joint event titled “Austerity: What Lessons Learned for Public Services?” to delve into the impacts of austerity measures on public services. This conference facilitated crucial discussions on strategies for future actions in light of the new set of economic governance rules set to be applicable from 2025.

The event united three leading European trade union federations—ETF, EPSU, and ETUCE—representing a wide range of public services alongside stakeholders and European Commission officials.

The first thematic debate centred on inclusiveness and the impact of austerity on public services as a public good. Livia Spera, General Secretary of ETF, noted, “There’s a deep contradiction between what the EU wants with the Green Deal and the resources provided for public transport. Public services, specifically Public Transport, can only thrive with steady and sound public investment. This is especially important for social inclusion, as studies show that women, people with lower income, and people with migrant backgrounds are the ones who use public transport the most.”

The second part of the discussions focused on staff shortages. Speakers highlighted how years of neoliberal policies have driven public services to the brink of collapse, leaving them understaffed. They underscored the risk that further austerity policies would exacerbate the situation and stressed the urgent need for increased investment in public services.

Joint Statement

Following the conference, ETF, EPSU, and ETUCE issued a joint statement on the occasion of UN Public Services Day on 23 June, emphasizing the dangers of austerity measures. The statement underscored that public services are the cornerstones of democracy, essential for fostering social inclusion and reducing inequalities. Austerity policies threaten public services, leading to the closure of hospitals and schools and depriving communities of access to essential services such as general practitioners and public transport.