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

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Crimes committed in the name of the Rochdale Pioneers

The bandwagon rolls on doesn’t with every malcontent in local government wanting to jump on the mutual bandwagon. This latest report in the Guardian refers to plans for Cleveland Fire Brigade as well as the new Labour leadership in Rochdale jumping on mutual’s as some form of panacea.
What is frightening is whenever Rochdale is mentioned they refer to its history as the birthplace of the co-operative movement, as if these current proposals to run public services are somehow related to that particular style of co-operative. In reality they are a world apart. The original Rochdale pioneers were consumer co-operatives but this not the modus operandi of the co-operatives being proposed for public services.

The models now been trailed are more akin to the failed ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan) models that were quickly consumed by private sector buy outs in the 1980's – remember bus deregulation and the idea that the buses would owned by the drivers and conductors? Of course they wanted to own the company right up until private operators offered them a grand in the hand and chance for a weeks’ holiday in Magaluf! Job security promises quickly disintegrated as the greed of the operators left the former ‘employee owners’ redundant.

There is little Government (local or national) could do to police these arrangements without running head long into European free trade directives and anti-competition laws so anything we place into staff mutual’s or co-op's will be inherently at risk from future privatisation. In any event if we don’t have the money for these services now as public services you could bet your Granny on it not having any money as a co-op or mutual.

All UNISON branches and members should be opposing these moves – either we believe in public service or we don’t - if we compromise our principles for this neo-capitalist economic doctrine, disgracefully but unsurprisingly supported by the Labour Party, then we might as well pack up our unions banners and march on home.

Anna Rose