Organising & Bargaining in the Community and Voluntary Sector

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2008 Health Care Service Group Conference
20 November 2007

Conference notes that, despite strong campaigning by UNISON, pay and conditions for our members in the community and voluntary sector (CVS) are inferior to those in the NHS. As CVS organisations provide an increasing number of core public services and this gap becomes more acute, it becomes increasingly unacceptable both for our members and for public services.

Conference also notes that the shift in emphasis in government funding for the sector, from grants to contracts awarded to the lowest bidder, is forcing many CVS employers to reduce terms and conditions, attack TUPE, and make many members redundant.

In 2007 UNISON published two reports into the effects of contracting to the voluntary sector and short-term funding within the sector: Third Sector Provision of Local Government and Health Services, and False Economy? The Costs of Contracting and Workforce Insecurity in the Voluntary Sector. The reports found evidence of redundancy, insecurity in pay and conditions, health and safety problems, changing job roles, changing working hours, training deficits, high levels of stress, and poor work-life balance. Future career prospects for our members are being damaged by varying terms and conditions and a lack of adequate education and training in the community and voluntary sector. It is clear that competition based on lowest cost has compromised the quality of public services.

Conference supports the excellent innovatory work carried out by the community and voluntary sector, but is concerned that funding arrangements for the sector are preventing organisations from investing in innovation. Recent research found that innovation by the sector has fallen as a direct result of the move to contract competition. This is damaging the capacity of the sector to do the good work it has always done.

The government’s Third Sector Review, published in July 2007, makes it clear that it intends to contract out more public services to the community and voluntary sector. There are fears about the extent to which social enterprises will take on work from Primary Care Trusts.

Transfers to social enterprises and other voluntary organisations also present serious organising challenges to UNISON, as we seek to recruit, retain and organise members as they transfer to new, smaller, employers.

Conference calls on the Health Service Group Executive:

1)To campaign, alongside community and voluntary organisations that share our concerns, for appropriate use of the sector, to safeguard its strengths as the sector that can campaign on behalf of vulnerable people, identify gaps in public services, and help develop solutions to those gaps;

2)To organise healthcare workers delivering services, whichever sector they work in, supporting the vital work that they do;

3)To develop bargaining strategies which seek to ensure that NHS terms and conditions apply in community and voluntary organisations providing healthcare services.