In late 2010 Minister Francis Maude decided – with no consultation with unions or staff – that MyCSP was to become a Mutual Joint Venture. The “precise form” of the mutual (a Mutual Joint Venture with external commercial partners) was the only option on the table.
MyCSP refused to canvass staff views on the proposal. PCS balloted its members in MyCSP on industrial action, and they voted by a clear majority take strike action. A well supported strike and overtime ban followed. In a subsequent survey conducted by PCS – filled in by 55% of MyCSP staff across all its offices - 94% of respondents said they did not agree with Francis Maude that turning MyCSP into a MJV would “empower staff and drive up performance”. More than 95% said they wanted to retain civil service status.
As of November 2011, the preferred bidders for a private sector stake in MyCSP were Capita, JLT Ltd, Wipro and Xafinity. If it proceeds, it will be what the Co-operative Party calls a “quasi mutual private enterprise”, not a worker-owned co-operative or a real mutual.
The government’s “Enterprise Incubator” is now asking departments to submit proposals to turn other areas of the civil service into MJVs. Already the MoJ’s Court Enforcement Service is at risk. These plans have one thing in common – the employees’ “right” to transform their organisation into a mutual is not a right at all, in that a) they have no choice in whether they wish to exercise this “right” or not, and b) the precise model of the mutual they will work in is being dictated by government and imposed from above.
It is clear that the government’s mutualism agenda is flawed at conception. But beyond that, there are many unanswered questions about whether mutualism can ever be consistent with the effective delivery of essential public services.
Amongst the key issues the government continues to evade: