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2007 National Delegate Conference
1 June 2007
Carried as Amended

Conference notes with deep concern the government’s continuing commitment to the private provision of public services. In every part of the public sector from schools and hospitals to housing and benefits the government is pushing ahead with privatisation and outsourcing.

In the National Health Service (NHS), the government appears committed to privatisation by stealth. At the end of last year plans were announced to hand over the running of Lymington hospital in the New Forest to Partnership Health Group, making it the first NHS hospital to be run entirely by the private sector. Private companies have been awarded contracts to provide one million diagnostic procedures. This follows the privatisation of NHS Logistics and comes on top of the budget crisis facing hospitals and Primary Care Trusts (PCT) across the country resulting directly from the leakage of billions pounds of taxpayers’ money out of the NHS through Private Finance Initiative (PFI) projects and Independent Sector Treatment Centres (ISTC). New Nurses that are more likely to be young members have been left doing unskilled jobs because of redundancies and vacancy freezes across the service.

In education, the government is increasing the involvement of the private sector through city academies, PFI and the outsourcing of council education departments. The introduction of variable tuition fees in higher education is already causing increased marketisation, and the review of the cap on fees in 2010 could see fees of up to £10,000 a year for some courses and working class students choosing the college and their course based on their ability to pay rather than their ability to learn. Several major universities have recently reached agreements with companies such as Into University Partnerships Limited, Kaplan and IBT to directly recruit and teach international students at English language teaching centres on campus. Similar deals are currently being negotiated with other higher education institutions.

In social care, the government has continued to pressurise local authorities to close care homes across the country, and proposes to privatise local authority social work with the introduction of ‘social care practices’ to look after children in public care.

Local authorities are being encouraged to continue to pressure council tenants to vote for their homes to be privatised while the government refuses to allow local councils to invest in council housing, despite repeated calls to do so by Labour Party Conference. Young members are disproportionately affected by the housing crisis, they are forced into work because they cannot afford housing and education, stuck in houses of multiple occupation with nowhere to study or time to relax, forced on to the streets which then can increase anti social behaviour. Shelter have highlighted the case of the so-called hidden homeless – young people are forced on to the streets as they are not considered a priority, its unclear how many thousands of young people are in this situation as they are not all covered by the Housing Act and local authorities do not have an obligation to count them.

In local government New Labour’s policy of efficiency savings has led to councils either directly outsourcing services or entering strategic partnerships with companies such as Capita who then have a huge influence in setting council priorities.

Young people are victimised in the media and by politicians – the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report released in February this year called for the media and politicians to stop demonising youth. It also highlighted the UK as the worst out of the 21 westernised countries for young people to grow up in.

In the civil service, the Government is seeking to push though mass job cuts, deskilling and the introduction of call centres with the aim of preparing services for privatisation and off shore provision as has already taken place with some former Department of Work and Pension jobs. 20,000 Ministry of Defence jobs are to be hived off to private contractors. The National Probation Service is being disbanded and replaced by competing public bodies, private companies and voluntary organisations.

Conference believes that not only is privatisation bad for our members in that it leads to job losses, lower pay and worse conditions, but it is a disaster for the quality of public services and the millions of users that rely on them. Competition leads to inefficiency, inadequate provision and wasted resources. The huge profits that private companies are seeking to make from the provision of public services should instead be reinvested in improving those services. Conference reaffirms its commitment to the provision of well funded public services under public ownership and democratic control.

Conference regrets that there is no evidence so far that the incoming Labour Party leadership will be any less committed to the public bad – private good mantra of its predecessor. We congratulate the Trades Union Congress (TUC) on its lobby of Parliament in defence of public services earlier this year and our Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) colleagues on their strike action against cuts in the civil service. Conference believes that a major national campaign involving all the trade unions in the public sector and user groups will be necessary to make the government change course.

If we do not act to defend public services now, young members of the future will be coming to conference never having known quality public services.

Conference resolves to:

1) build on our work with the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) and other public trade unions and user groups including UNISON’s Retired Members’ Organisation and initiate a major national campaign against the privatisation of our services;

2) work with the National Young Members’ Forum on this campaign and engage with young members in every aspect of planning and delivery of the campaign;

3) call on UNISON Labour Link to raise the concerns set out in this motion within the Labour Party;

4) call on UNISON Labour Link to work with young APF payers in highlighting these important issues;

5)continue to support the NUS led Coalition 2010 to keep the cap on tuition fees, whilst maintaining our opposition to tuition fees in principle;

6)raise awareness of the privatisation issue among UNISON members across all sectors;