UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

UNISON exposes 'grave misconduct' by private bidders

UNISON called for an immediate halt to privatisation at Edinburgh City Council at a lobby of the Council this morning after it was revealed that two of the private bidders had not revealed criminal convictions arising from fatal workplace accidents.

"If any of our members failed to disclose a conviction and they were later found out, they'd be sacked. It seems it's one law for the workers and another for big companies", Edinburgh UNISON President John Stevenson told the rally.

The Council has reached the half way stage in a £1 billion privatisation programme and councillors are being asked to approve another million pound investment in the tendering process. However, union negotiations have revealed that council officials allowed some bidders to remain in the sell-off process despite failing to respond accurately to repeated calls for full disclosure of previous convictions.

This comes on top of the shortlisting in June of four companies who recently received multi-million pound fines for price fixing in public sector contracts. Then there was the revelation that one of the previous bidders Veolia was involved in the illegally occupied Palestinian territories. And added to that, although Connaught was not shortlisted, they did pass the council’s finance checks a matter of weeks before entering administration.

UNISON Edinburgh lead negotiator Kevin Duguid said: "Clearly our members are worried at the prospect of working for private companies with a poor health and safety record. But the problems run deeper. Through either carelessness or intent, these companies have led council officials to believe their hands were clean when that was not the case.

“Edinburgh already has a troublesome relationship with the tram contractor, we don't need more hassle, disruption and cost. The report to council shows that in-house services are high quality and low cost, lets stop the privatisation nonsense now"

“The new revelations follow councillors not being informed earlier in the year that four companies had received multi-million pound fines for price fixing in public sector contracts. On top of that Connaught, although not shortlisted, went into administration a matter of weeks after passing the council’s finance checks”, added Peter Hunter, UNISON Regional Organiser.

“The Trams saga shows just how important it is to get things right and avoid the risks. The in-house bids are open and transparent and deliver real savings. We believe they are streets ahead on price, quality and risk management. It is time for the Council to abandon this wasteful and risky privatisation adventure and get back to focussing on delivering efficient services with its own staff”, added John Stevenson.