Low-paid council cleaners face privatisation threat warns UNISON

More than 100 low-paid Middlesbrough Council employees have been told their jobs are to be privatised and transferred to private companies next year so the authority can make savings of around £180,000, says UNISON today (Friday).

Around 140 cleaners employed by the authority say councillors are planning to outsource their jobs simply to save cash. The workers are worried the move will see them earn less and mean cuts to their pensions in future.

UNISON is anxious that once employed within the new companies, the cleaners will miss out on annual pay rises received by other council staff. There are also concerns they’ll have to leave the local government pension scheme.

If the privatisation goes ahead, UNISON also fears the emergence of a two-tier workforce within the local authority, where staff on outsourced contracts lose out compared to colleagues still directly employed by the council.

The union is calling on councillors to think again, keep the jobs in-house and instead find equipment and other efficiencies to deliver the required savings.

UNISON regional secretary Clare Williams said: “These outsourcing plans are morally indefensible. Privatising contracts in this way is a false economy.

“The council already has a poor track record when it comes to outsourcing contracts. In the past it’s been forced to bring them back in-house when things don’t work out.

“UNISON wants to work with local councillors to find a way of delivering a modern cleaning service, based on new ways of working, which avoids the unnecessary privatisation of these jobs.”

UNISON branch secretary Paul Thompson said: “The council has been silent on any guarantees to protect these low-paid, predominantly female, staff.

“Unless councillors can provide reassurance the employees won’t be worse off – now or in the future – as a result of the privatisation, cleaning staff should remain part of the council and not be sold off into the hands of a profiteering private company.”

Our members are proud to work in public services for the council and are worried for the future of their jobs, their pay, terms & conditions of service and cleaning standards as any private company seeks to make a profit out of a publicly funded service.

Some of our members who are under threat went into the Council meeting with their placards in an attempt to persuade Councillors to think again and keep their service in-house.