Unison ready to fight against mutuals and rails against ‘self-interested’ third sector

By David Bicknell

It would be nice to think that the unions might see something positive in mutuals, a new (old) way of doing business, perhaps. Maybe an open mind?

But no. The latest communication from Unison – call to arms might be a better description – is profoundly depressing for anyone who sees the possibilities offered by mutuals and co-operatives. It is dismissively critical of what it calls the ‘self interested’ third sector. I suppose I shouldn’t have been that surprised by the tone.

Here’s a taste of its invective:

“Whilst the Cabinet Office desperately struggles to reinvent the failing ‘big society’ policy the LGA recently reported that less than 3% of councils responding to a survey have had any interest from staff in setting up employee led mutual arrangements and very few intend to encourage or push this route.
 
“Despite these figures which would depress the most committed ‘big society’ proponent The Cabinet Office are intent on flogging a dead horse are now issuing guidance and changes to legislation to take forward coops and mutuals to make it easier to set them up to run public services:
http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/news/mutuals-get-go-ahead
 
“This is now for the unions a ‘back to CCT’ moment. In the late 80’s and early 90s we made sure anyone who wanted to pick over the bones of public services were able to support the continuance of staff terms and conditions and we fought hard to enforce TUPE.
 

“We fought for continuation of staff pensions and made pensions a key negotiating point. We fought against the cowboy contractors by insisting that they had proper health and safety assessments, method statements, competency to do the work and financial security to run public services without going into bankruptcy.

“This latest missive from the Cabinet Office should remind us as a union to dust down the old CCT advice. It is no different now to then in many ways – if enthusiastic amateurs attempt to run local public services they should be held to account in the same way that we held private companies to account under CCT.

“Public services shouldn’t be put at risk nor public sector workers thrown onto the scrap heap because councils or other employers are seduced by the language of good intent spun by the self-interested third sector intent on privatising public services.”

So, I guess we should probably take that as a ‘No to mutuals’ then.

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