Public Sector Ownership and Employment

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2010 National Delegate Conference
23 February 2010
Carried as Amended

Conference notes both Conservative and Labour parties are promoting co-operatives and mutuals for the public sector. The recognition, however rhetorically, of the importance of worker involvement as an essential condition for improving public services is welcome. On the other hand there is a serious danger, especially in the current context of cuts in public spending that such proposals will lead to further marketisation and fragmentation of public services, with workers cutting their own terms and conditions to compete with the private sector.

Conference believes the union should engage confidently in this debate on the basis of :

1)An insistence on the need to maintain core public service provision on the basis of publicly provided public services through which these services are adequately funded and accountable to everyone;

2)A commitment, building on the existing best practice, to develop and promote strategies for public service reform through systematic increase in the participation of workers, trade unions, service users and communities in service design and delivery. Conference believes that this commitment to democracy driven public service reform should also be a central part of UNISON’s post general election public services agenda;

3) A commitment to develop and promote models of public sector management which are based on maximising public benefit and democratic accountability rather than imitating the private market;

4)A recognition of specific conditions where co-operatives and mutuals in close collaboration the public sector can improve the responsiveness of the public services to the need of their users and the ability of frontline staff to have greater control of their work. These circumstances would predominantly be specific new services where co-operatives could be a source of innovation and learning;

5)Opposition to the imposition of changes in ownership even when couched in the language of co-operatives and mutuals.

To further these aims Conference believes that the union should:

a)Positively promote and learn from existing good practice in the public sector of reform based on worker and user involvement;

b)Develop positive proposals that can be campaigned for and organised around in the context of developing public debate;

c)Review available evidence, UNISON experience and update existing policy on the contexts where co-operative and mutual forms of ownership can be of benefit to staff and users and character of conditions, ownership models, and alternative means of promoting staff and user engagement;

d)On the basis of the above strengthen advice, guidance and support available to UNISON branches and members who are faced with options, or are under pressure, to adopt ‘cooperative’, ‘mutual’, ‘social enterprise’ or other ownership models outside the public sector including access to admitted body status pensions within the LGPS and modification orders to secure continuity of service.