Privatisation and the Two-Tier Workforce

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2011 Local Government Service Group Conference
23 February 2011
Carried as Amended

This Conference notes the increasingly open and brutal nature of the Tory-led government attacks on public sector workers. Threats to the local government two-tier code in England (whilst the Welsh Assembly Government is proposing to retain it), the warning to academy schools not to sign up to national terms and conditions and the increased drive to more privatisation are just some examples of this.

Conference believes that our experience in local government shows that outsourcing services will almost always result in worse treatment of the workers involved. Shared services may lead to outsourcing (though not always) and fragmentation to social enterprises often does not protect workers’ rights. However it is likely that more workers providing local services will be employed by contractors in future and we must speak up for all workers providing local services no matter who employs them.

The Local Government Service Group Executive should in the first instance support branches to organise robust campaigns to prevent outsourcing and privatisation of public services.

We also note that Southwest One, (which is 75% owned by IBM, is responsible for back office functions for the Somerset County and Taunton Deane councils and the Avon and Somerset Police) had reported losses of £16.5m in the last accounting year and that SWO has not acquired new third party business to date. We also note that Somerset County Council is renegotiating its contract with SWO. The Southwest One deal has been one of the more high profile shared service operations in local government and one of the few to extend to another public service. It is not expected to make anything approaching the projected £200m savings claimed in 2007.

Conference calls on the Local Government Service Group Executive to:

1)Reassert our justified belief that local public services are best provided by democratically accountable local authorities and public bodies

2)Promote and publicise positive initiatives to organise outsourced workers, including new starters

3)Research and publicise examples of service deterioration linked to poor treatment of the workforce and loss of public money related to privatisation

4)Work with other service groups to develop a bargaining and organising strategy to maximise protection for outsourced workers, using the Cabinet Office “six principles of good employment practice” as an absolute minimum

5)Research the business models and practices of private contractors to underpin this organising strategy

6)Systematically research the service providers and levels of service for key local government services in different authorities on a service-by-service basis

7)Work with UNISON regions to campaign for the retention of the two-tier code where it still exists or equivalent

8)Work with Labour Link to maintain good practice for the protection of workers on contracts by Labour councils, and for the Labour Party to support strong and comprehensive protections for outsourced workers now and under any future Labour government

9)Publicise examples of private sector failure in local government, such as Liverpool Direct and the controversial company that runs ‘back-office’ services for various local authorities and the police known as SouthWestOne

10)Produce research on the benefits for staff and users, including the social, economic and financial benefits of taking privatised services back in-house