Ahead of a rally in London highlighting the damage caused by privatisation we look at how outsourcing is bad for workers, impacts on public services and presents poor value for money for taxpayers.
PCS has always been vigorously opposed to the privatisation and outsourcing of our members’ jobs. The government recently had to admit the damage caused by outsourcing when HM Prison Birmingham was permanently returned to the public sector, and it was announced that probation services in England and Wales would be renationalised after a disastrous part-privatisation programme. PCS HMPPS branch has demanded a moratorium on all further prison and justice privatisation until a full, independent inquiry has been conducted into the cost, viability and morality of such practices.
We’ve got a few other examples of what happens when the private sector tries to deliver public sector services in PCS workplaces.
Denied a living wage
In one of the starkest illustrations of the impact of putting profit before people, our members have had to set up a food bank to support cleaners and security staff working for outsourcing firm ISS at the government’s own business department, BEIS. Members are demanding an end to pay cycle chaos created by a change of contract to ISS, leaving many members without pay, and to be paid the London Living Wage. They and fellow outsourced staff at BEIS – who work in catering for global corporation Aramark and are also fighting for a living wage – have been taking strike action. ISS cleaners at HMRC in Bootle and Liverpool have also voted overwhelmingly to strike over their pay and conditions.
Recognition refusal at FCO
Government contractor Interserve is refusing to recognise PCS at the Foreign Office, so won’t negotiate on redundancies, changes to pay dates, and attacks on sick pay.
Their attitude has forced workers providing services like facilities management, porterage and cleaning, to strike. The PCS branch there has also set up a food bank for members who haven’t been paid because of a new system moving them from salaries to hourly rates.
Carillion: no lessons learned
In a spectacular example of the failure of outsourcing to private firms, multinational giant Carillion collapsed under a debt pile in 2018.
PCS members were affected in areas like the prison service, the defence sector, the British Museum and the Metropolitan Police. An MPs’ report said the government had a “depressing inability... to learn from repeated mistakes”.
Success: when the union forces U-turns
Plans to privatise the vital Ministry of Defence Guard Service (MGS) were indefinitely suspended last year following a PCS campaign.
It was decided there would be no justification or logic in selling off this vital public security function, which provides unarmed guarding services at more than 100 sites across the MOD estate. This was exactly the message that PCS reps had delivered from the outset.
Members and public supporters twice fought off attempts to privatise the Land Registry, in 2014 and 2016, in one of the most significant victories of the union’s campaign to keep public services in public hands.
The joint rally with the Trade Union Coordinating Group runs from 6-8pm on 17 July in the Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House, 1 Parliament Street, and will be chaired by PCS President Fran Heathcote, with speakers including:
- Mark Serwotka, PCS General Secretary
- Ian Lawrence, Napo General Secretary
- Mick Cash, RMT General Secretary
- Rebecca Long-Bailey MP, shadow secretary of state for BEIS
- John McDonnell MP, shadow chancellor
- Representatives from BEIS, FCO and HMRC disputes.
The rally is open to all but please allow 15 minutes to clear security.
In the next article on outsourcing we look at what your rights are in fighting outsourcing.