The true value of Public Service
We are living and working through unprecedented times and this an Easter Sunday like no other.
SIPTU members in the public service, community or private sector, are going about their business to the best extent they can, mindful of their obligations to strictly follow HSE Covid-19 safety protocols.
Our members are working in production and distribution sectors, in commercial and financial services – all to ensure that we can continue to access essential goods and services.
In the public service, our members are delivering essential services in our health sector, fire and ambulance, local government, social protection and public administration.
In our health services, our ambulance professionals, our cleaners, caterers, home care workers, household staff, health care assistants, midwives, multi task attendants, nurses, radiographers, radiation therapists, phlebotomists and members working in Section 38 and 39 organisations and in residential and community based intellectual disability centres are all making a huge contribution to defeat Covid-19.
At times of crisis, we begin to truly value our public services. It is during a crisis that we rely on and meet the workers who deliver these services. In normal times, we associate public services with the taxes that we pay and the politicians who manage them.
In times of crisis more personal relationships emerge between who uses and who delivers those services.
Over the years, with the onset of climate change, we have experienced an increasing frequency of storms and bad weather events. When these happened, public service workers acted to protect people, communities and property. And this was taking place during the period when investment and employment in the public sector was being reduced.
This phenomenon is being replicated across the EU.
It stands out in Ireland because of our low level of investment in public services relative to our EU partners. We are experiencing a health crisis. This time, fortunately, the EU and governments are increasing resources to public services and social protection to sure that people and communities are protected, our economy is sustained and the fabric of our society is maintained.
Yet, workers providing health and other essential life-saving services do so despite the dismantling over decades of the basic infrastructure they require and the conditions under which they work.
The true value of public services cannot be found in some financial bottom-line at the end of a spreadsheet.
It is in a country’s capacity to provide for the health, security and well-being – physical and financial – of all its people, especially in times of need, through well-funded social protection schemes and investment in public services.
It may well be that as this pandemic crisis continues, these realities will become more evident – so that when the emergency passes we can have a mature debate on the type of society, community and economy we wish to build for the future.
We have heard about how the political establishment, whether in Ireland or in the EU, have lost touch with people and communities. Over the decades we have experienced throughout Europe a slow degradation of the public sector through privatisation, turning essential services into market commodities
It’s time we connect these two phenomena and see the relationship between the loss of public trust and the decline of public services.
No matter what happens in the time ahead, no matter what new crisis lurks around some corner, our members in the public service will continue to provide the services we rely on, just as our members have done through storms, red weather alerts, foot and mouth disease, flu outbreaks and recessions.
Together with members in the private sector our members in the public sector and health service will continue to go to work in the hope that when we through this together, we can build a society that is fair and protects all and where no one is left behind.