Headlines: July 3rd, 2001

Following a claim by UNISON that surveys show clearly that the public do not want private companies making a profit out essential public service, the Public and Commercial Services Union, representing over 270,000 members in the civil service and the private sector, has called for more research on the effect of public-private partnerships on the workforce.The union feels that public sector workers are not always given a fair chance to compete for work. Financial calculations about costs are often interpreted to give a more favourable than likely predictions for savings, interest rates and projected overall costs, compared to lower costs of finance from the Treasury. The PCS is concerned that the government has taken on the Thatcherite mantle of favouring the private sector in areas of difficulty in the public sector. Private sector involvement could be used to drive down wages in the public sector. The call for more research into the impact of private-public partnerships on working conditions supports a similar call made last week by the IPPR in its report.

UNISON with 1.25 million members providing services to the public made it clear that if the Government is to achieve its objective, it needs the support and goodwill of union members, adding that this is not a threat, but a fact of life. It has revealed that it has 8.5m pounds in a dispute fund to oppose privatization moves.

The British Medical Association has reiterated its opposition to the private finance initiative saying it is not an affordable long term strategy for increasing capital investment in the NHS. It believes that the initiative should be abandoned and alternative schemes devised.The BMA stance takes into account the ‘concordat’ between the government and the Independent Healthcare Association established in October 2000. This sets out the parameters for a partnership between the NHS and private and voluntary health care providers. It envisages a partnership approach to enable NHS patients in England to be treated free in the private and voluntary health care sectors. The concordat identified three areas for co-operation; elective care, critical care and intermediate care facilities.

Representatives of the TGWU and GMB are due to meet the Liberal Democrat leader, Charles Kennedy, to discuss public services. The Liberal Democrats have argued for investment in services as a number one priority and are committed to the belief that the public service ethic must be predominant.