The union and outsourcing (John Moloney's column)

Submitted by AWL on 30 November, 2021 - 10:48 Author: John Moloney
Outsourced HMRC protest

Following their victory in the recent dispute, our members in Royal Parks are preparing further demands, including over a range of safety issues, to submit to management.

Throughout my time as Assistant General Secretary I’ve worked support and empower outsourced workers in the civil service to organise and take action. We’ve increased our membership by hundreds. We have a number of targets for next year, including winning company-wide bargaining with Mitie. This company holds ten major outsourced contracts in the civil service; we currently have recognition in seven. We want an agreement that guarantees us collective bargaining across all Mitie’s contracts, rather than having to agree contract-by-contract recognition.

A number of outsourced contracts, for cleaning and other facilities management work, which were previously devolved across multiple departments, are now due to be consolidated into a single contract by the Government Property Agency.

In April next year, the GPA will be “going to the market”, that is, seeing if companies are interested in bidding for the contract and on what terms. In the run up to going out to the market, we’ll be campaigning to demand the contract is in-sourced rather than put out to tender.

We’re also looking into a judicial review around the claim that outsourcing is indirect race and sexual discrimination, on the basis that it leads to workforces that have a higher proportion of BAME and women workers than the directly employed workforce, having worse terms and conditions. The United Voices of the World union recently had success with a similar claim, albeit in an Employment Tribunal, and the RMT is also pursuing a claim against Transport for London. Beyond this, we’ll continue to put political pressure on the Scottish and Welsh governments particularly, which claim to be pro-worker and pro-union, to bring their outsourced contracts in house.

Our National Executive Committee meets on 9 December. By then, we may know more about the new variant of the virus. It may be that we need to step up our campaigning to prevent workers from being forced back into the office.

We know a letter has gone out to government departments, around a week ago, from the head of the civil service, saying risk assessments should be revised in order to get more people back into workplaces.

The new variant may change their thinking, but if it doesn’t, we will need to fight, including via industrial action.

On Saturday 27 November, I spoke in the closing plenary of Workers’ Liberty’s day school “Building a New Left.” I believe left revival has to be based on the class struggle, primarily the trade unions. We are seeing some signs of an increasing willingness to fight.

The election of Sharon Graham in Unite, and CWU’s call for a national demonstration to demand a “new deal for workers”, should be built on.

PCS will be writing to other members of the Trade Union Coordinating Group, such as CWU, FBU, and BFAWU, to propose a conference to plan a trade union-based campaign around climate change.

The Labour Party remains a key terrain of struggle, but, as we saw with Corbynism, if left organisation there isn’t connected to an effort to revive class struggle and transform the unions, it will founder.

• John Moloney is assistant general secretary of the civil service workers’ union PCS, writing in a personal capacity

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