Local public service workers operate and bring cities to life every day, providing the essential public services we need at all times, and relentlessly serving urban and local communities. To do so, they deserve adequate resources, staffing levels and the appropriate equipment to deliver quality services and perform their jobs safely. In reality workers’ rights and conditions worldwide leave much to be desired. When austerity measures, privatisation, tax evasion and corruption hit local government, public workers are among first to bear the brunt. Precarious employment, poverty wages, informalization, trade union rights’ violations, lack of training and poor safety equipment are challenges in local public services and building sites. Many workers have to carry out their professional duties under difficult conditions going well beyond their basic job requirements out of commitment and dedication to their cities and communities.
Since the onset of the Habitat III process, workers and trade unions have expressed clearly in their Position on the New Urban Agenda that to make cities fair, and for urbanization to result in lasting socio-economic inclusion that reduces poverty and inequality, workers must be placed at the heart of the Agenda, and commitments and urban policies must find root in the Decent Work framework of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and SDG Goal 8. If city workers’ livelihoods are precarious, unsustainable and they are deprived of basic human rights, the cities they operate in and bring to life every day will be unsustainable and unfair, too.
Lack of access to Decent Work for workers inevitably translates into deeper and wider territorial inequalities and jeopardizes equitable access to quality public services for all. Freedom of association, collective bargaining and other fundamental labour and trade union rights are not only human rights’ entitlement of local and regional government workers, but also a necessary precondition to enable them to perform their job properly and to deliver the quality urban public services cities need. It is crucial to raise awareness within urban communities, mayors, local and central government officials and elected representatives, as well as within the UN system beyond ILO.