View from the street: Impact of outsourcing
PUBLISHED: 08:30 26 September 2020
The government looks determined to accelerate the privatisation gravy train with the barely scrutinised award of Covid-related contracts for testing, tracing and PPE.
Meanwhile, a recent case has highlighted the damaging effects of previous rounds of outsourcing.
Earlier this month an employment tribunal awarded an average of £10,000 each to 10 social care workers, employed in the neighbouring borough of Haringey.
The eight men and two women – all of them Black or South Asian – had delivered home care to vulnerable Haringey residents on contracts with three private companies.
The firms had consistently denied them pay for travel time between service users, meaning some worked up to 14 hours a day while receiving as little as £3.60 an hour, roughly half the then-legal minimum.
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Some £100,000 in overall compensation is a modest reward for the dogged persistence of the workers themselves and their Unison trade union representatives.
The Haringey Unison branch first launched its campaign over unpaid travel time more than four years ago.
The tribunal’s ruling may pave the way for many more cases nationally even as the 10 claimants still await their payments from three private providers (a fourth has already settled the claim).
The sorry reality is that this particular scandal is only too typical of privatisation’s impact across social care generally, though as a result of the union campaign Haringey Council now insists that all its social care contractors pay at least the London Living Wage and honour other aspects of the union’s Ethical Care Charter.
Without union resources these workers would have found it difficult, if not impossible, to pursue a measure of justice through the tribunal system.
For unions there remains the considerable challenge of winning and organising members across social care, where their presence remains far too weak even as cuts to local council budgets and outsourcing have driven down pay and conditions.
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