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

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Involving workers key to quality services – not privatisation

Edinburgh Council would do well to learn the lessons of a story in its own staff magazine and vote against two more major privatisations this month.

Interviews with grass roots union stewards in the December issue show how positive workers are about change if they are directly involved in designing their service – so long as it remains a service for the public, not a cash-grab for private companies.

In November, the SNP coalition councillors joined with Labour and the Greens to keep Environmental Services in house, leaving only their Lib Dem coalition partners and the Tories voting against.

The euphoria of the campaign success that kept the service in-house was always likely to recede as the hard realities of the changes kicked in. But as the 23 January start date for the new shift patterns and working practices approaches, grass roots union activists remain positive about the future of their service so long as they are directly involved in shaping it.

And they weren’t shy about telling the workforce magazine ‘Magnet’ about it.

Unite shop steward John Porterfield is quoted: “We’ve worked hard to make the case for the in-house option and to demonstrate how that will work. But there are other reasons to be happy – this is a real opportunity to do something special.

“The decision to stay in-house gives us a fresh start – for both the union and the managers. The stewards have new skills and confidence from the campaign and we’ll be taking that into our future work – for the members and for the service.”

UNISON’s ‘Our City’s Not For Sale’ campaign over the last two years now has a joint union badge with Unite and GMB and the most recent campaign focus has been on “Up For Change, Realistic, Fair Efficient’, to promote the in-house options.

But it’s not change at any cost: “We’re up for change if we’re given the chance to influence how these changes take effect”, John told the magazine.

A theme picked up by UNISON steward Tam McKirdy when he told the magazine: “Along with other duties, me and my colleagues work on the floral clock in Princes Street. The hours of planning and effort involved create just one visual image of the quality of work across Environmental Services.

“That’s what you get when staff get some control over their work – quality.”

So, if it is quality and efficiency rather than purely cost that the LibDems are after (and that’s what they claim), they should have no problem throwing out the other two privatisation schemes in the coming weeks.