Headlines: September 3rd, 2003

A public policy forum is to be set up at which modernization initiatives and union concerns will be discussed by the Government and unions. The forum will be chaired by Cabinet Office Minister Douglas Alexander who is responsible for the office of public service reform. The importance of the development for the unions is that they will get early warning of modernization plans and be able to present their views at an earlier stage than is currently the case. The creation of the forum is partly a response to union anger at the way in which the foundation hospitals policy was presented to them without any discussion or proposals to pilot the concept.The forum has been condemned by the Conservative Party and the CBI as a return to the era of beer and sandwiches at Number 10.

The TUC view of the forum is that it will provide a platform to discuss erosion of conditions of employment and service quality. There is a strongly held view across the trade union movement that the government does not trust public servants to deliver improved public services and that there is a clear preference for competition, markets and private sector involvement.

The TUC believes that the government must enlist trade unionists’ energy and enthusiasm if the programme of public service improvement is to succeed. Public service workers must be confident that they have a stake in the modernization process, that their voices will be heard and that their views will make a difference.