Keep private sector out, say unions

Prime minister Tony Blair has promised to ‘redesign’ public services to make them modern and efficient, involving plans to invest £180bn in public and private partnership over the next 10 years.

But the TUC general council, while applauding the government’s aim to improve public services, has voiced ‘concern over plans to allow private companies to manage public service’ and has stated that it believes they should remain in the hands of public servants.

The issue is to be discussed at the TUC’s next annual conference schedule for September, but according to the preliminary agenda published on the TUC’s website, almost all member unions remained opposed to the idea.

Heading the calls for government to abandon it s PPP/PFI plans, is UNISON, the biggest public services trade union which said the expansion and improvement of public services could not be achieved through an increased role for the private sector in the provision of core public services.

‘Private finance and private partnerships will lead to the demise of quality public services,’ UNISON warned. Instead it called for partnership with ‘service users’ and an increased commitment to involve staff and trade unions.

The Transport and General Workers Union also rejected the notion that efficient public services can only be provided entirely by, or in partnership with, the private sector.

‘The greater involvement of the private sector in the running of public services proposed in a recent IPPR report will severely diminish the ethos of service that underpins the public sector by introducing free market values into areas such as education and health services,’ the TGWU said.

19 other unions also voiced criticism of PPP and PFI plans, among them a number of education and teaching unions and some smaller unions such as the Society of Radiographers and the Association of Educational Psychologists.

Only the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union was broadly in favour of involving the private sector in public affairs. It said it believed the ‘government and trade unions, along with both public and private sectors, should work together in partnership to deliver public services that we can be proud of.’

The TUC is seeking meetings with the government to discuss all public sector plans in detail.


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