Sunday, July 11, 2021

UNISON Special Labour Link National Forum 2021 Motion 8: Charity Contracts - Race to the Bottom


This is the motion and my speech from last Saturday's (3.7.21) UNISON Special Labour Link National Forum meeting.  I moved this Greater London motion 8 about the Volunteer sector and the race to the bottom with regard to staff terms and conditions - and what we can do about it as a Labour movement.

Many thanks to Jordon Creed from London Voluntary Organisations branch who sent this motion to London Labour Link, who supported it and sent it to our National Forum on behalf of all London Labour Link Members. 

I am fairly confident (touch wood) that this is a campaign we can win. Not only is this National Labour Link policy but at a meeting last week of London Regional Council officers and Regional Management team, everyone was very supportive and it feeds into our existing campaigning on UNISON Ethnical Care contract and the response to Covid. 

I also last week spoke virtually at Kilburn and Finchley branch Labour Party and my UNISON branch executive about the campaign and I am more than willing to speak to any other Labour movement meetings. 

Motion 8. Charity Contracts: Race to the Bottom

Forum believes that we need to ensure across London there is no race to the bottom in terms of pay, holiday, sickness when charities bid for contracts.

Forum calls upon the National Committee to call upon Labour councils and representatives, including the Mayor of London, to commit to not giving contracts to any providers that do not pay the living wage and use zero hour contracts and give their employees only statutory sick pay.

Forum believes local authorities and the Greater London Authority should have terms and conditions of employment which are clearly specified and protected in agreements when competitive tending takes place.

Forum believes this will also improve the quality of the service as contracts will be awarded on the basis of quality not just the lower cost and support collective bargaining in the community sector workplaces across London.

Greater London Region

Moving motion 8

Chair, Forum, John Gray, Greater London Regional delegate moving motion 8 “Charity Contracts: Race to the bottom”

Forum, this motion is London centric but I am sure the issue of a “race to the bottom” in the Charity and voluntary sector applies to all regions and nations.

I don’t need to tell anyone here about the simple, day in, day out, misery of all workers, who have to exist on a minimum wage, insecure employment and no employer sick pay.

And of course it’s not just about the workers and their families, who are our members, as vital as that is, it’s also about the residents and clients who receive these services. Who don’t want overworked and stressed carers, who have to work 60 hours a week to pay the bills.

The question is what as a Union and a Labour link do we do about it? What do we do about it? Passing motions for motions sake never achieved anything. So let’s think things through. 

Firstly, let’s not be forgetting that while charities get funding from various sources including the NHS, the commissioning of services by local government is key.

While we want services to be provided in-house whenever possible and I note that by doing so, it would in fact at a stroke mean that in most, not all Councils, the objectives of this motion would be obtained. So defending public services from future outsourcing and campaigning to bring back services in house is a given.

But in the meanwhile, we need to press all our levers, industrial and political, to campaign for all councils and Mayors to insist that all their commissioned services, pay at least the real living wage, ban imposed zero hour contracts and pay proper sick pay.

Now we cannot ignore that there are legal and funding difficulties, after 10 years of austerity local authority funding has been cut by up to 50%.

But let us work with councils to take on the rouge employers who threaten them with legal action if they impose such conditions. Many employers want to stop this race to the bottom, they want a level playing field, in order to provide better services. We need to work with these employers and target those who will not.

Forum, passing this motion should also be just a beginning, we want more for our members. As well as a real living wage we want a living pension provision, we want to sustain decent terms and conditions by also demanding trade union recognition and sectorial pay bargaining.

Forum, while we will not win every battle, this issue, is one that I think the Labour movement family can win. Let us act as a united Labour movement family, by campaigning as a union, work with progressive labour councils and employers and then by doing so - win real benefits for our members, not least, putting money in their pockets and purses of our members, which to me is why the labour movement was formed.

Forum, please support this motion, I move"

I was very happy that 99% of delegates supported this motion. 

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