Friday, October 05, 2012

Outsourcing & Austerity: Civil Society & the Coalition Government"

Today I was a breakout session speaker at this conference in Congress House. I spoke alongside senior employment rights officer at the TUC, Hannah Reed. Our brief was "What is happening to the voluntary sector workforce".

I will post another time on the wider conference (which was very well organised). Below is my crib sheet for my session. I believe that notes taken of the whole conference will be published on line. Will update when get details.

Austerity & Outsourcing affects not only clients & users but also staff. There has been a “Race to the Gutter”. Cuts in SP funding and removal of ring fencing. Deliberately breaking and undermining of TUPE.

Means that many staff have had pay cut by up to 30%, increase in working week, cutting of leave, threat of redundancy and job insecurity.

Growth of agency workers/temporary contracts; bank/0 hour’s staff; tax cheating bogus self employment, greater use of “volunteers”.

Redundancies and recruitment freezes means increased case loads & greater workplace demands which leads to stress and the cutting of corners in providing services. 

We all know what happens when organisations serving vulnerable groups start cutting corners to cut costs.
There is a huge reputational risk to organisations and a potential discrediting of whole sector. Some organisations want to employ only part time workers not full time so they can claim state benefit top ups!

Wider content is the attack on employment protection for workers by the Coalition. The doubling of the time needed before you can claim unfair dismissal, charging upfront fees of over £1000 for ET, withdrawal of health and safety measures etc.

Need to understand why workers pay and conditions are relevant to the wider community, due to the local economic impact and that on the quality of service. Many experienced and trained care workers can get more money packing shelves in Tesco’s.

What we need to do?
All Unions want genuine Partnership with employers and Community groups/representative organisations. Discussions around sectorial agreements on quality, safeguarding and price. We want to work with like minded people who will say enough is enough – we cannot go below this level and provide decent services. Not just Trade union provider interest but we are citizens as well who rely on these services.
Workers and community activists can work together (both got inside knowledge, local campaigns).  Top and bottom approach.

Unions recognise that we have to get our act together as well. Never organised properly in the sector in past. UNISON now has a specific section for all Community & Voluntary. I am one of two elected NEC members. Setting up local branches specifically for C&V trade union members.
Trade union recognition. Need to get members to join. Cannot understand why some "reputable" organisations refuse to recognise trade unions? A blockage to working together. What have they got to hide?

Campaign/lobby together (openly or otherwise) the Government, Councils and Devolved nations. Especially Labour & progressive "one nation" elements (discuss). The unions don't yet punch their weight in our sector.
While there is a lot we can do change policies and occasional defeat the Coalition. (such as water down Health Bill and new look pensions LGPS 2014). There has to be bigger political issue. Educate our members and public that there is a credible alternative economic model to Austerity.  We need a plan B.

Increasing the pay of the low paid is one way of increasing demand and growth. While huge amounts of taxpayers’ money is being used not to pay off debt but subsidise poverty wages. 
We have a job of work to do with our members and public on this vital subject.

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