Public Service Campaigning – Stop Outsourcing and Protect Members

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2016 National Delegate Conference
25 February 2016
Carried as Amended

Conference believes that keeping existing public services in – house should be the default position for all public services on the grounds that public services offer better quality, accountability, efficiency and social value to citizens, workers and tax payers.

Any new forms of non public service delivery should not be considered until:

1)An in-house service improvement plan has been considered as a viable option at the options appraisal stage;

2)A ‘public interest test’ is met first before the decision to begin a commissioning process is made.

Conference notes however that public services are facing increasing attempts by the UK government to ‘open up’ public services to marketisation through privatisation, promoting public service mutual’s and social enterprise and opening up market access to UK public services from private oversees corporations through new global Trade Agreements.

The UK public sector outsourcing market was estimated to be over £100bn by the end of 2015. Public services globally are now being outsources at an unprecedented rate.

Conference remains opposed to privatisation, the growing use of Social Impact Bonds (SIBs) in alternative delivery models of payment by results and the ‘spinning-out’ of the public sector services to co-operatives, mutual’s and social enterprises.

Conference believes that attempts to open up public service to the not –for- profit sector and ‘social value led’ organisations, in the current climate of unprecedented public service budget cuts is an ill – judged attempt to try and run services on the cheap. The new ‘three year reservations’ allowed in outsourcing for mutual’s and social enterprises is not the answer to public service budget cuts and will likely be only an intermediate service delivery stop before the end destination of full privatisation.

This is delayed privatisation.

It is an in – direct route to privatisation and is not based on a sustainable strategy to support the not-for-profit in delivering quality public services without a race to the bottom. If the service is not sustainable in the public sector, Conference we would question how a co-op, mutual or social enterprise can be financially viable while retaining existing terms and conditions for the workforce.

Conference notes that on occasion it has been possible to take lawful industrial action in a transfer situation over the identity of the new employer.

Conference remains opposed to the ‘spinning-out’ of the public sector to co-operatives, mutuals and social enterprises for the following reasons:

a)The evidence is that with the lack of sustainable support for the not-for-profit sector, they will be forced to compete as private companies. Finding it difficult to compete charities and the voluntary community sector are being pushed out of public sector markets leading to private takeovers in the no-for-profit services;

b)Once a service is transferred out of the local authority or other public body, it becomes a private company. It will have to compete as a private company. The council or public body has lost control;

c)The unsustainability of public service mutuals means that workers can at any point be made redundant or transferred to another employer with loss of comparable pension rights and terms and conditions protection lost. All evidence shows that workers terms and conditions are eroded in nearly all outsourcing – there are very few examples of where they have been improved;

A recent survey of social enterprises in the UK ( January 2016) demonstrated that only 25% recognised trade unions and only 60% paid the Living Wage.

d)Little evidence exists that mutuals have delivered any better social or value added outcomes than a comparative public in-house provision or implemented true democratic control by staff, shareholders and stakeholders;

e)There is little evidence yet that the new’ price-quality ratio’ award criteria as set out in the new UK Public Contract Regulations 2015, has been used in the commissioning processes of not-for-profit outsourcing and spin offs instead of the old ‘price/cost only’ criteria to award contracts;

f)To deliver quality public services in Local Authorities, NHS, Police and Justice, Education and other state agencies we need better funding. Non public alternative delivery models will not address funding shortfalls or prove an in-house service improvement plan cannot deliver savings or be efficient;

g)These ‘public service mutuals’ are feeding the UK Government’s agenda of deceiving the public into thinking this form of ‘spinning out’ is not privatisation, but adding social value to public services. It is delayed privatisation with the service once retendered, years later, likely to be privatised changing the future balance of public services away from public to private delivery;

h)The cost of administering market processes and tenders takes funds from public services.

Conference, therefore, calls on the National Executive Council to:

i)Continue to campaign for existing public services to remain in – house as a default position for all public services and to promote the use of a ‘public interest test’ when outsourcing is proposed;

ii)Continue to work with the We Own It campaign for a Public Service Users Bill of Rights which calls for:

A)Transparency: We have the right to information about decisions made in our name;

B)Accountability: We have the right to a real say over our public services;

C)People before profit: We have the right to public services that put our needs above profit.

iii)Continue to promote the new UNISON branch Guidance “How Your branch can stop outsourcing and protect members” (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) and equivalent Scottish procurement regulations on the new web procurement information hub, work with LAOS, regions and Service Groups in training and joint information sharing for branch activists;

iv)Include negotiating and organising case study examples of UNISON outsourcing and procurement campaigns, good practice contracts with social outcomes adopted (UNISON’s Ethical Care charter, apprenticeships, the Living Wage, abolished zero hours contracts etc) and other social and employment benefits to ensure better terms and conditions for members and provide organising and recruitment opportunities;

v)Continue to work with public authorities to move outsourcing and privatisation contracts away from the ‘price or cost only’ award criteria, which has fuelled the race to the bottom on workforce pay and conditions and use the new ‘price-quality’ ratio criteria in public contract awards;

vi)Continue to work with both the private sector and not for profit sector to promote social responsible procurement, the Living wage and trade union recognition;

vii)Continue to promote alternative sustainable funding mechanisms, such as direct grants for the not-for profit sector to distinguish them from the private sector and enable the Voluntary and Community sector to continue to provide their niche valuable contribution to services in the public sector and maintain their social value ethos;

viii)Continue to work with sister unions across the EU to press for Europe wide protection for public services.