Wednesday, April 27, 2011

TUPE or not TUPE?

Privatisation is central to the purpose of neoliberal Governments (like this one and the last one).

It's in the nature of capitalism to exhaust opportunities for the making of profit and to experience periodic crises "of overproduction" as capital which cannot profitably be invested is hoarded, and goods and services cannot find a market.

The self-correcting mechanism of capitalism is a recession which drives down wages, and forces the least profitable firms out of business, eventually restoring profitability at the expense of the wasted years and ruined lives of mass unemployment.

However, another opportunity for the capitalist system is to open up new areas for private profit - and ever since the rulers of Western Europe were forced to concede welfare states in fear of their own people (and the Red Army) - profit hungry privateers have gazed greedily at the possibilities to profit from public services.

The application of the EU Acquired Rights Directive and therefore the "Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations" (TUPE) to public services in the 1990s was intended to smooth the path of privatisation by protecting (to some extent) workforce conditions in the hope of neutralising union opposition.

This worked "well" in Lambeth, where in 1997 we saw what was then the largest single privatisation in the history of English local government. TUPE encouraged union officials to accept privatisation from New Labour. TeamLambeth (as it was) was a sorry failure and TUPE failed to prevent the betrayal of the privatised workforce and the communities depending on their services. Councillors haven't learned anything from this either locally or nationally, as we face still further privatisations.

Blairite advocates of privatisation may think that TUPE means that the workers will be ok. They should experience the reality.

In "protecting" our conditions, TUPE turns us into chattels to be "transferred" against our will from one boss to another in a modern day slave auction - and sometimes people fall through the cracks in this legal "protection".

As bad as it is to have the identity of your employer changed against your will without legal remedy it is even worse to disappear into a legal limbo where no one will admit that they employ you.

Thanks to my employer's "open mind" about opening up public services to private profit I am and have been dealing with workers left in limbo when their former employer tells them they are being "TUPE transferred" to another employer who says they're not.

This puts blameless individuals into a Kafkaesque world where everyone knows that someone ought to be paying them (or paying redundancy) but no one will admit liability.

Hats off to Barnet UNISON (http://www.barnetunison.me.uk/) who are showing our movement that it is possible to have a trade dispute - and take action - against a change in the identity of your employer.

The answer to privatisation is not to rely on TUPE. It is to fight.

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

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