Opinion Former Article

PCS: Ministers urged to give public sector fair go in race to run prisons

Ministers are being urged by unions to give public sector in-house bids equal consideration as firms gather in London to hear about the next round of possible privatisations.

Union representatives will outline their opposition to market testing and privatisation of prisons outside a meeting that will be attended by contractors in London tomorrow (21).

Public and Commercial Services union representatives, with the probation officers' union NAPO and Prison Officers Association, will highlight the fact that private companies cut costs by cutting jobs, pay and conditions for staff - as shown by the recent decision to hand Birmingham prison over to G4S.

But because the government believes a straight comparison between in-house public sector bids and ones from the private sector would be 'unfair' to the private sector, notional costs are added to in-house bids to create a so called ‘level playing field’.

Following the process that led to the handover of Birmingham in October - the first prison to transfer from the public to private sector - the government is now running market testing for a further nine prisons: Acklington, Castington, Coldingley, Durham, Hatfield, Lindholme, Moorland, Onley and the Wolds (currently run by G4S). Decisions are scheduled for October 2012.

The unions will be leafleting outside a meeting hosted by the Ministry of Justice at Somerset House, London, to launch this second phase of its privatisation programme.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "We believe it is morally indefensible to seek to make a profit from locking people up and rehabilitating them, and are opposed to any further privatisation.

"But the government appears to be ideologically committed to selling off more essential public services like this, and tilting the balance in favour of privatisation."

ENDS

Notes

- For information and interview requests contact PCS national press officer Richard Simcox on 020 7801 2747 or 07833 978216

- The Public and Commercial Services union represents civil and public servants in central government. It has around 300,000 members in over 200 departments and agencies, and in parts of government transferred to the private sector. PCS is the UK's sixth largest union and is affiliated to the TUC. The general secretary is Mark Serwotka and the president is Janice Godrich - on Twitter @janicegodrich

- Follow PCS on Twitter @pcs_union

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