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

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

What kind of victory is this?

It came as no surprise that Eric Pickles announced, or rather slipped out on the DCLG website during the hullabaloo on budget day, the end of the Code of Practice on Workforce Matters.

The Code was statutory in nature and applied to outsourced local government contracts protecting outsourced workers and new starters from a downward spiral in terms, conditions and pay rates.

Should UNISON’s response be one of outrage at this move? Probably yes because it typifies this right wing government's approach to putting profit before people but I for one had a little chuckle at the tactical stupidity of Pickles.

Since its introduction the Code was abused by labour councils as they jumped on the Best Value bandwagon to outsource contracts under the guise of provider neutrality. It didn’t matter, they argued, who operated contracts so long as they worked. Anyone remember the mantra of Hilary Armstrong? ‘What matters is what works’. A fig leaf excuse to introduce privatisation under new labour’s terms was given impetus by this supposed protection of workers and new starters.

The code was paraded as the much vaunted level-playing field. After just a few months it became clear that employers and contractors were merely paying lip-service. The profit before people approach soon gained traction once again. This is not to dismiss the endeavours of the unions to best protect our members but defeat will also lie in legal approaches to solve political issues.

So our message should be ‘watch out’. Where labour councils now jump on the outsourcing bandwagon we will be watching. The bluster and bullying of Pickles will be his undoing on this issue. If anything is set to renew the opposition of ordinary members of the public and UNISON members against privatisation of public services this is it. Like an adrenalin injection to the heart this will now cement opposition to privatisation.

It will make it far more difficult for labour councils to be complicit with the dismantling of state provision which bloodied and marred local government during the Blair years.

We can now finally have the political battle that was missing from our previous campaigns.

Anna Rose