UNISON is backing a call for an independent inquiry on the impact of outsourcing public services after new research showed that low-paid workers are bearing the brunt as their pay and conditions get worse.
According to the Smith Institute research, government spending cuts are being contracted out, meaning declining standards, pensions and career paths for low-paid workers.
“This research is a wake-up call that shows once and for all that outsourcing is not the way to improve public services or save public money,” commented UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis.
“Contracting-out can be little more than a way of slashing the wages of already low-paid workers,” he added. “This leads to low morale, higher turnover of staff and lower quality public services.
“The true legacy of outsourcing is all too often a two tier work-force, zero-hours contracts, removal of sick leave and poverty wages.
“That is why UNISON is supporting the call for an independent inquiry on the impact of outsourcing. The public has a right to know that the money they pay to government is being spent wisely.”
The Smith Institute report, Outsourcing the cuts: pay and employment effects of contracting out, looked at five recent outsourcing contracts in three councils, an NHS trust group and a police source.
The main finding was that public-sector cuts are determining the objectives, nature and outcomes of the latest outsourcing deals in public services.
On some contracts, the cuts are being passed directly on to low-paid workers.
On others, there is a more mixed picture, with cuts being met by reducing pay and benefits for staff alongside other changes to working patterns and processes.
It also shows that successive retendering of contracts and reconfigurations of services have produced, “a staggering array of different terms and conditions among people providing the same public service.
“At the same time, when staff move into the private sector, transparency around their pay decrease.”
The Smith Institute, named after former Labour leader John Smith, is a progressive think tank which promotes a fairer society.