The event, hosted by the European Confederation of Independent Trade Unions (CESI) and the European Policy Centre (EPC), encouraged various opinions to be voiced on how the public sector has fared in the crisis and how it should now develop. One message appeared again and again: the public sector is under severe strain, and this issue must be addressed.
What has the crisis meant for public sector? In simple terms, it has meant reduced revenue and reduced expenditure. However we are not witnessing reduced expectations. Instead, the demands on public services have increased. If public services are expected to deliver more, why is the public sector facing the full force of the crisis?
Representing the European Commission (DG Employment), Jean-Paul Tricart stated that the public sector was a key sector in which “adjustments” could be made by governments conceding that this appeared to Member States to be the easier option and that cuts in this area would have an immediate impact.
CESI Secretary General Klaus Heeger sees this as a huge challenge for public services to overcome: “Short-term thinking with reactionary reforms in the public sector are not sustainable. Reforms can only be effective if those who will have to implement them, the staff, are involved. This is like trying to fix a car without the engine. So far this unilateral imposition of reforms has been a problem in many countries in Europe.”
The role of public servants was a recurring theme throughout the event. Public servants are aware of the meaningful and worthwhile contribution they make and know the quality of the services they deliver. This is an important factor in attracting high quality staff to the public sector and crucial to maintaining the quality of services delivered.
CESI President Romain Wolff underlined the important role of the public sector as an economic and social stabiliser throughout the crisis. In his view, for this to continue, people’s opinions of the public sector need to be changed: “We are link in a period defined by a lack of confidence of citizens in the institutions. This has to change as soon as possible. Without trust in the public sphere, or by reducing the capacity to act or deliver services, states risk being exposed to serious social problems.”
Future funding of public services is always at the centre of the debate. The joint event by CESI and the EPC was no exception. Romain Wolff suggested a tax on capital as being a good resource for increased revenue, by underlining the abundance of capital and wealth in Europe.
CESI would like to thank the European Policy Centre for helping to organise the event and for its in-depth contributions to a debate which looks to dominate the public sector for many years to come.
You can read more from CESI Secretary General Klaus Heeger in an interview with Europolitics on their website. The complete interview can also be found here in English and in French.