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

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Deal or no deal?

Government has made no secret of its desire to see at least 20% of public sector contracts transferred to third sector providers. In reality the operation of procurement rules to get to this 'Big Society’ nirvana will open up public sector markets, not just to the third sector providers, but to private sector operators as well.

There has been an unholy alliance between private sector contractors and powerful lobbyists in the third sector to tackle public sector pensions.

Both sides see them as a barrier to getting their hands on public sector contracts. Unsurprising then that the Treasury is now ‘considering’ responses to the review of ‘Fair Deal’ which was designed to protect public sector workers from a race to the bottom on pensions.

Angela Eagle helpfully highlights this is a piece in today’s Guardian pointing out rightly that this is simply to cushion contractors, whoever they may be, from the financial ‘burden’ of providing decent occupational pensions:  http://m.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/jul/05/public-sector-pensions-shakeup-privatisation-plot?cat=politics&type=article

The crass stupidity of one of Hutton’s recommendations to review the admitted body status provisions (where contractors under outsourced contracts can join pension schemes as employers and thus secure the future pensions of transferred workers) as part of his pensions reforms has handed the Tories a means by which to legitimise the attack on ‘Fair Deal’ that we are now seeing.

Whether or not bodies are considered to be ‘admitted bodies’ to the pension schemes is not the point – with the right safeguards it is a perfectly manageable situation for the pensions funds. It is simply that the privateer and third sector providers do not want to financially support the pensions of public sector workers. Hutton’s blundering into an area where he is clearly not competent to comment could now cost our members who transfer employers under outsourced contracts their pension rights.

It is quite simple. If there is no deal on pensions there will be no deals on outsourcing. This will be the game changer. Public sector contractors and third sector whiners take note.

Anna Rose