Pandemic has driven home the value of public services
From hospital staff caring for our sick to local authority workers delivering food packages to the vulnerable or university lecturers maintaining education remotely, this pandemic has driven home not only the importance of public services but also their flexibility.
The range of public services is vast, from the largest sectors, such as health, education and local authorities to social services, policing, emergency services and community development. It is often the case that our public services are working at their best when we do not notice their impact, such as sustaining a smoothly functioning road network or maintaining the water running through our taps.
There has been a tendency in public debate to divide the economy between the private and public sectors, when in fact they are inter-dependent. One does not work without the other. A high proportion of private sector jobs are directly or indirectly dependent on public services, whether through public procurement, the purchasing power of public service employees or direct and indirect supports to enterprise. It is hard to see how a modern economy and society, including the private sector, could function without the role of public services in the social and economic infrastructure.
In SIPTU, and the wider trade union movement, we are committed to creating public services that will provide the basis of economic growth and a good society. Through the ‘More Power to You’ initiative, we are campaigning, alongside other trade unions, for a greater role for local authorities in the delivery of public services in order to enhance their accessibility and accountability as well as bringing their control closer to communities.
In the crucial area of childcare, the Big Start campaign has made giant strides towards organising a low-paid and often undervalued workforce to demand reforms that will benefit children, working families and society as a whole. Elsewhere, we work to ensure public procurement is both transparent and efficient while pushing for the creation of the patient-centred healthcare system envisaged in Sláintecare.
As we slowly emerge from a once-in-a-century crisis which has starkly illustrated their importance, we must fight for properly resourced and reformed public services that can help build back a dynamic economy and prosperous society.