Wednesday 17 January 2007

Privatisation Madness

All the evidence demonstrates that the Government has gone privatisation mad.

Take two examples this week.

Last night I attended a meeting of Care Workers in Barnet, convened by Unison and the GMB trade unions. A few years ago the local council privatised its care homes, passing them over to a housing association and a management company. Just before Christmas the care workers received a letter from the company basically telling them that if they didn't sign a new contract of employment accepting a huge pay cut and severe cutbacks in their working conditions, they would be sacked.

These workers are extremely dedicated to the elderly people they care for but have now been forced to ballot for strike action to protect their jobs. At the meeting relatives of the elderly people living in the care homes came along to express their support for the care workers if they take industrial action. It was a moving meeting and I could feel the sadness that the care workers felt at being forced to even contemplate taking action but also their strong determination to fight back against this injustice.

Today the Government announced a massive privatisation scheme in the Ministry of Defence with the selling off of MOD training in a lengthy contract worth billions of pound. This service is to be handed over to the private sector at a cost of about 2000 jobs.

The company, Metrix, has created a virtual monopoly, with the innevitable result in due course that the Government will be vulnerable to demands for further taxpayers money and further cuts in jobs, pay and conditions of employment.

All the commitments from the Government that its policies would be evidence based and that it did not have an ideological preference for the private sector were rendered laughable when it refused to allow an in-house bid for the training service.

All these privatisations stem from Gordon Brown's obsession with the private sector, an essential element of his neo-con mindset. Surely there can be nobody in our movement, particularly in our trade unions who can have any further illusions that a Brown government would do anything other than continue its large scale programme of privatising what is left of our public services.