Thursday, January 25, 2007

Public sector workers rally in London

PUBLIC sector workers from all over Britain last Tuesday set out for Westminster to lobby their MPs to protest about the Government’s privatisation policies – and the attacks that slander the workers and undermine these services in order to justify the “reforms”.
The protest was a response to the Number Ten strategy unit discussion paper. The TUC countered it with a paper, Reform, not Permanent Revolution, saying that minister should stop claiming that reform is necessary because public services are failing. This damages morale and causes resentment, especially at a time when the Government is trying to keep public sector pay rises below inflation.
The TUC listed measures the Government should put in place to achieve real improvement, not quick fixes:
• reducing top-down performance management targets and instead giving services flexibility about how they meet service standards;
• accepting that the public sector ethos cannot be safeguarded by writing terms and conditions into contracts with private suppliers;
• rejecting the use of market mechanisms and accepting that a plurality of suppliers fragments public services, replacing collaboration and partnership with competition;
• rethinking the approach to giving users choice in public services, so that users are given the choices that they want to exercise rather than using choice as a quasi-market-mechanism to pit providers against each other; and,
• strengthening the capacity of public services to improve by boosting the skills of the workforce and involving staff in change.
The general union Amicus has produced a glossary of buzzwords that the Government uses to disguise the gradual privatisation of public services, including choice, consultancy, contestability and partnerships.
The union says there is no evidence that the Government’s reforms are improving services or providing an efficient use of public money. And it adds that as well as costing many millions of pounds the involvement of the private sector in public services is compromising public accountability.
Amicus general secretary Derek Simpson said: “There is a fundamental conflict of interest between profit and providing the best service to people but the problem is not simply a matter of cost and evidence.
“These policies take for granted a set of values that idealise competition and see public services as consumer goods. no evidence
“There is no evidence that profit-driven privatisation provides better services or improved value for money. In fact privatisation is often more expensive and detrimental to service delivery and creates significant inequalities.
“Our public services have wider benefits than simply economic and individual gain. They contribute to an enriched, participative and socially engaged society and help build solidarity and compassion. In other words public services are a good thing and worth paying for.”
The GMB general union concurred with this view, saying that some things are just too important to be driven by profit. Not just things like healthcare, education and criminal justice, but all the vital public services that protect people, bind the nation together and boost our prosperity.
The union supported Tuesday’s mass lobby, to tell MPs that public servants want to serve the public, not shareholders or company owners.