The Government’s proposal to weaken protections against privatisation, by allowing pay costs to be taken into account in management outsourcing proposals, was stiffly – and ultimately successfully – resisted by IMPACT and unions like Siptu in last week’s negotiations. It was only at the eleventh hour that the Government relented, leaving existing protections intact.
While the monetary aspects of public service agreements generate most debate – along with issues like working time – the outsourcing protections are arguably as important, if not more.
That’s because they compel management to consult with unions and produce a business plan setting out the case for what it calls ‘external service delivery’ if they want to outsource a service or part of a service. Crucially, labour costs cannot be included in the business plan.
Abandoning the ‘labour cost’ provision would have meant virtually every business case would support privatisation – on the basis of minimum wage and rock-bottom workers’ rights – regardless of the impact on service quality and worker protections.
In the talks, management also sought to amend the rules to allow projects worth €10 million or less to be outsourced without reference to any consultation or protections at all.
In the past, IMPACT has successfully invoked the protections – first won under the Croke Park agreement and strengthened under Haddington Road in 2013 – to prevent privatisation of local authority services. That’s why the union doggedly insisted that there would be no deal if the provisions were watered down.