Council cleaners celebrate after seeing off outsourcing threat

UNISON campaigning sees Middlesbrough council drop privatisation plan

UNISON has notched up another victory preventing low-paid workers being outsourced to private firms.

Thanks to campaigning and pressure by the union’s Middlesbrough local government branch and Northern region, the local council has dropped plans to hive off the jobs of 140 cleaners, who feared for their pay and pensions if they were transferred.

The workers – who are among the lowest-paid staff at the local authority – were told their jobs were to be outsourced to a number of contractors.

The branch campaigned against the transfer with strong support from the Labour group of councillors. Their opposition culminated in a mass demonstration outside a full council meeting just before Christmas.

The independent mayor and his cabinet have now reconsidered and withdrew the proposal earlier this month.

Instead of being transferred to private companies, the cleaners will continue working for Middlesbrough council and will see their hard-earned wages and pensions protected as will now they remain part of the council’s workforce, says UNISON.

“These outsourcing plans were morally indefensible and little more than a legal way to cut the wages of the council’s lowest-paid employees in future,” said UNISON regional secretary Clare Williams.

She added that the council has a track record of privatising contracts and then being forced to bring the jobs back in-house when things don’t work out.

“UNISON will now work with councillors to find a way of delivering a modern cleaning service, with new ways of working that avoid outsourcing these roles unnecessarily,” pledged Ms Williams.

Branch secretary Paul Thompson added “The council has been persuaded by the moral pressure applied by UNISON and the Labour group of councillors.

“These low-paid, predominantly female, workers will now continue to be protected by nationally negotiated wages, and fair terms and conditions. They will also remain in the Local Government Pension Scheme, ensuring they can afford to retire when the time is right for them.”