Blog Archives

Outsourcing 7: bring privatised services and PFI deals back into public ownership

As Paul Halas writes (Western Daily Press, 7 December 2019, p. 30):

“Over the past few decades privatisations have included Royal Mail, British Gas, electricity, water and sewage treatment, the 999 calls service, much of the ambulance service, the NHS appointments service, British Steel, large parts of the education service, the Coal Board (as was), the probation service, many prisons and detention centres, large chunks of the care services, British Airways, British Rail… ad infinitum”).

Martin Rudland draws attention to the ‘we own it’ website which focusses on privatisation of public services which wastes billions each year on shareholder dividends and high borrowing costs, giving links to research into costs in several sectors including water, energy, transport, broadband, Royal Mail and NHS.

Transnational Engie is on the list of Luton and Dunstable University Hospital’s suppliers of domestic, catering and cleaning services. Unison and GMB are calling for these services to be brought back in-house once Engie’s contract ends next year.

UNISON, the union representing workers at Luton & Dunstable Hospital, points out that staff who were transferred from the NHS in 2015 are being paid NHS rates of £9.02 an hour but anyone who started since is paid the legal minimum of £8.21 an hour.

New starters are paid at least £1,400 less than colleagues who were at the hospital before cleaning services were sold off. Engie employees have also told UNISON that they are being denied leave and being made to take the blame when the contractor is pulled up by the Trust for any shortcomings in service.

UNISON’s Eastern regional organiser Winston Dorsett said, “Engie has confused and demoralised its staff further with a third set of pay and conditions brought in last year to squeeze a bit more cash out of the taxpayer. This firm is making its profits off the backs of some of the lowest-paid workers in our NHS”.

GMB regional organiser Hilda Tavolara agrees that the workers “deserve to be treated fairly by their employer” and points out that last year, housekeepers’ working hours and wages were cut, yet they were still expected to do the same amount of work. This has had a knock-on effect on the patients, their families and visitors.

Hospital chiefs are offering Engie a new 10-year contract to provide the services, proposing to outsource a number or employees currently working for the NHS but UNISON is calling on the Trust not to renew Engie’s contract next year and bring cleaning, catering and housekeeping back in-house.

This week an IPPR study revealed the cost of private finance initiatives (PFI) contracts in the NHS.

These contracts brought £13 billion of initial investment capital into the health system but by the time they have ended the NHS will have spent £80 billion on them.

This is money which could have been spent on doctors’ and nurses’ salaries, on improving treatments, or on making sure young mental health inpatients don’t have to stay in hospitals hundreds of miles away from their family and friends.

The IPPR report reveals that £55 billion of this debt is still outstanding – representing a huge burden on tight NHS resources if the government does not take action. It recommends that bad deals be brought back into public ownership.

After wondering whether what’s left of the NHS is really going to remain in the public domain under the Tories, Paul Halas adds: “What they (private companies) all have in common is poorer service, higher prices, worse wages and conditions for employees, and a haemorrhaging of money to highly paid executives and shareholders, many of them based overseas and avoiding tax in this country”, ending:

“The Tories’ long-term goal has always been to shrink the public sector to the size of a walnut and until the NHS, the last of the public service dominoes, is toppled it’ll remain a thorn in their ideological flesh”. 

 

 

 

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Career-minded ‘moderates’ and radical ‘Corbynites’

Times journalist Hamish MacDonnell writes of the Scottish Labour leadership campaign as being ‘expected to turn into a battle between the anti-Corbyn and moderate wings of the party’.

Later he amplifies: a “battle between those who want the party to become more left-wing, in tune with Jeremy Corbyn and his hard-left Momentum followers, and those who are more moderate”

Translation:

  • hard left Momentum followers: people who want to see social justice in the country
  • the ‘more moderate’: career-minded people – sometimes described as ‘Tory-lite’ who would only slightly mitigate the worst excesses of ‘Broken Britain’ if given the chance.

Wholesale radical reform is sought by ‘Corbynites’ – and what a threat that is to the vested political and finaial interest with which most moderates are entangled – or hope to be.

No candidate has yet to declare that they will stand, but the frontrunners — one from each side of the party — have made it clear they are almost ready to enter the fray.

Richard Leonard, former union organiser with the GMB, is seen as the pro-Corbyn candidate with trade unions (the bogey) ‘lobbying hard’ for him. No reference was made to trade unions Unite and Community, to which Anas Sarwar, of Labour’s ‘moderate’ wing, belongs.

Since this was written, both men have announced that they will stand for election.

 

 

 

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Keep Trident as a job creation scheme?

“Just get the catchphrases correct and the masses will nod along”; today –

A reader emails: “Today’s Times has several vituperative comments on Jeremy Corbyn – questioning his patriotism, etc., including an editorial on Trident after the Scottish Labour Party vote”.

nuclear buttonAs most will have heard, at a conference in Perth, Scottish Labour Party members and union delegates both voted by 70% to 30% to abandon plans to maintain a “massively expensive” and “militarily useless” submarine-launched ballistic Trident nuclear missile system.

The FT’s Mure Dickie reports (so much more objectively than the paper’s Corbyn-bashing Jim Pickard) that delegate Stephen Low said scrapping nuclear weapons would free money to be spent in more economically productive ways.

FT blog: the problem with UK politics, however, is not that people are too cynical but that they are too gullible

Though union delegates overall voted substantially to abandon Trident, Gary Smith of union GMB Scotland, played the fear card, saying that the idea that Trident jobs could be replaced is “utterly disingenuous” and that scrapping Trident renewal would threaten members far beyond Scotland’s Faslane and Coulport submarine and nuclear missile bases. Elsewhere an estimate of up to 13,000 jobs was given.

Politicians and other vested interests realise that – as FT lawyer/analyst David Allen Green says: “Our politics is beset and bedevilled by the phenomenon of mass nodding along. Just get the catchphrases correct, and you will get all the audience applause you need. The trick is saying the right things at the right time”.

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Twice as many – up to 25,000 worthwhile, constructive jobs in Scunthorpe and North Lincolnshire are at risk as a result of in-plant losses at Tata Steel, it has been claimed – but apart from workers, unions and the current Labour Party, the fear of this far larger loss is not presented to the public as cause for concern by mainstream politicians and supportive media.

After reading my correspondent’s final words: “I suppose several people may well have lost their jobs after Hitler-Germany no longer built the gas-ovens”, two questions occurred to me:

Why have governments preferred to support and promote damaging nuclear and armaments industries?

And why not work to elect a government which will break the mould . . .?

See: Musing on the Trident issue – arms conversion: the transfer of resources from military to civil use.