Stop the privatisation of the Public Services

UNISON staged a photocall to protest at the break-up of public services by the Labour government (with UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis third from the right)
UNISON staged a photocall to protest at the break-up of public services by the Labour government (with UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis third from the right)

TRADE unionists from across the public sector spoke out on Tuesday, demanding action from the TUC to stop the privatisation of the NHS and all the public services.

Speaking to News Line before and after a 1,000-strong rally in Westminster Central Halls, they said that every service is being ripped to pieces by the government’s drive to privatise and ‘marketise’ services.

From the NHS to the Ordnance Survey department, services are being handed over to private companies by the Blair government and local authorities working under government orders.

The civil service union, PCS, has called a national civil service strike on January 31 over mass sackings, privatisation and wage cutting.

The action was announced at a press conference in parliament before Tuesday’s public service rally and lobby of MPs.

Members of Prospect, the science workers union, who spoke to News Line said they wanted to join the PCS action.

Gary Tull said: ‘Seven of us have come up from Southampton because we’re one of the departments Gordon Brown is thinking of privatising.

‘Ordnance Survey would be better run as a public service, rather than a private one where the objective is mainly profits. And obviously if we were privatised the risk is the mapping of the country will fall to pieces.

‘We think personally that Prospect should be joining in with the civil service-wide strike on January 31.’

Val Phillips said: ‘Another key concern at the moment is that the government want to hold down our pay rise to 2.2 per cent (a pay cut) and “modernise’’ our pay schemes. That’s a real worry.’

Paul Boskett, president of the Community and Youth Workers Union (CYWU), was with other union members leafletting outside parliament.

He said: ‘We’re part of the lobby at Westminster today for defending public services.

‘The government have just issued statutory guidance which means that services for young people are now going to the highest bidder.

‘We’re fighting it and this is not the end, but the start of our extremely serious campaign.

‘We’re defending the youth work profession.

‘We’ve standing up for young people who are entitled to know that they’ve got an accountable public service in the form of youth work.

‘Thousands of youth workers could be made redundant – the very people who are working with the most vulnerable young people in our society. It’s a scandal.

‘The TUC should unite and help the public be aware.

‘If necessary we don’t rule out strike action across the TUC, because these attacks on the public services affect the whole of society.’

Eric Poche, from the Chagos Islands Community Association, told News Line: ‘We are here to make people aware of our situation and to get the support of the trade union movement.

‘We want them to help us.

‘We have a rally on February 10 in Crawley and we are going to demonstrate for what we need and what we want – to show the council and the government our concerns.

‘We want the right to return to our islands,’ Eric said.

‘We have British passports, we are British citizens, but our islands have been stolen from us by the British government, and when we came here we didn’t have any support from the government, not even housing.

‘And we have been banned from demonstrating outside the town hall.’

He added: ‘We want to contribute to society, just like anyone else, but the government won’t give us a helping hand.

‘They won’t even give us a roof over our heads.

‘The court has ruled that the islands belong to us, in 2001, but still nothing has happened.

‘The government is still appealing against the court’s decision. The government appeal is between February 5-9.’

Steve Jeggo, Leicestershire UNISON member working in probation hostels, said: ‘If Blair and the government won’t listen, then obviously a general strike by the TUC is an option that has to be thought about.

‘What we’ve seen in hostels over the last few years is spiralling costs that we’re paying out, but a deterioration in the services that are provided by private contractors.

‘Heating is breaking down and hostels are often left in the cold, literally.’

Stuart Reeves and David Jefferies, UNISON members in the Bedfordshire and Herts non-emergency ambulance service, said: ‘We do patient transport, taking people in and out of hospital and discharging patients from wards back home.

‘We’re here because a consortium of all the NHS Trusts in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire has recommended that our job be contracted out to a private company called Medical Services and a decision will be made on February 2.

‘We need to keep it NHS. Handing over to a private company will erode the care given to our patients and the back-up we provide to A&E will disappear.

‘We also have very professional medical training.’

Ken Brazier, another UNISON member in the ambulance service, said: ‘There have to be recommendations made by the unions to fight these cuts.

‘We can’t afford to lose any more hospitals.

‘I think there must be strike action by the TUC if they’re going to try and privatise the NHS.

‘It’s the most important service in the country.

‘There should be no profits on people’s illnesses and ailments.’

Elaine Kennedy and Jackie McMonagle, Amicus members from the West of Scotland, said: ‘We flew from Glasgow this morning because we’re technicians working in schools and every year we’re seeing more and more cuts that are resulting in frontline services being stripped to the bone.’

‘It’s the lower paid and the workers who provide the frontline services who suffer,’ said Jackie.

‘I work for West Dumbartonshire council and Elaine works for Glasgow City.

‘West Dumbartonshire is looking to make something like £4 million of cuts, and in both councils our members face severe difficulties because of Single Status job evaluation exercises.

‘I think the TUC has to get its trade union affiliates who pay millions into the Labour Party coffers to say: “either you’re going to support us or we’re not going to support you’’.’

Vince Maple, group assistant secretary for the PCS at the Identity and Passport Service, said: ‘It think our members have shown in a clear mandate that enough is enough, that public services shouldn’t be run for profit as we’ve seen being piloted in departments like the DWP, where it’s led to services for the public getting worse.

‘Our members are standing up and saying they actually want to deliver good public services.

‘Today’s event is a starting point. As our general secretary has just said, a national demonstration and Day of Action across the public services may be the way forward.

‘The TUC should be at the centre of it.’

Amore Robinson, a PCS member in the DWP, said: ‘We’ve had a vote to come out on strike next Wednesday, January 31, and we’re going to be working on getting everyone out on that day.

‘I think a one-day strike of all public service unions is required and that’s what our general secretary, Mark Serwotka, was saying on the platform today and I’m with him on that.’

She added: ‘Brown is behind all these cuts.

‘He’s already announced further cuts after 2008 and I’m under no illusion whatever that he would be any different from Blair.

‘I believe in a socialist government and I think the Labour Party has lost its socialist beginnings.

‘It had its roots in the labour movement, the trade unions, and now it’s just like a pale pink Tory party.’

Helen Finkill, Amanda Foster and Emma Lipscombe, from Newcastle City UNISON, spoke out against the wholesale privatisation of nursery services in the north-east.

Helen said: ‘Newcastle local authority is attempting to either privatise or close all the local authority childcare provision in the city.

‘I believe there has to be a general strike against privatisation, definitely.

‘It’s a disgrace that this is happening under a Labour government.

‘It’s not what anyone expected when they were voted in and it’s a betrayal really.’

Amanda said: ‘I work in one of the nurseries and we were only told on Thursday that they are using a piece of the Children’s Act 2006 to say that they no longer have to run the nurseries.’

‘It’s the perfect excuse they’ve been looking for,’ said Helen and Amanda added: ‘It’s going to have a huge impact on children in need and low-paid parents.’

Emma said: ‘It is affecting all of us.

‘In North Tyneside there has been even more extreme privatisation already.’