Tuesday, 3 May 2011

What Malcolm Grant Thinks About Outsourcing

Professor Grant was walking by the Portico. ‘Professor Grant’, I asked him, holding out a flyer ‘have you seen this?’

He said he had, and so I asked him if he knew about the UCL outsourcing. He said that naturally he did. I asked him why he was implementing it, in light of the consequences that the flyer spells out (in light of reduced pay, lengthened hours, fragmented shifts, worsened pension schemes, loss of union representation). He asked me if I had read the documents. I asked him if he meant the consultation documents. He averred, and I said that I had glanced at them. Professor Grant told me that in management, three things were important: a focus on core services, quality in service provision, and a professional attitude towards institutional order.

I told him that this list missed out the quality of life for workers. Quality of life is harmed by reduced wages, degraded pension schemes and longer hours. Professor Grant said that in management it was important not to be ideological, and that one shouldn’t assume that working conditions for private sector workers were worse than those enjoyed by public sector workers. For instance, sometimes private sector workers had more opportunities for training than public sector workers. Also UCL was in a position where some workers were privately contracted, and others employed in-house.

This last point didn't seem to me to be particularly relevant. I said that historically conditions for public sector workers had been better than conditions for private sector workers. Professor Grant reminded me that UCL had a commitment to the London Living Wage, for all workers, whether employed in-house or out. I told him that TUPEING workers into private sector contracts incentivised the private contractor to seek technical reasons to make the workers redundant, so that new and cheaper workers might be employed in their place. Professor Grant repeated that there were more training opportunities for private sector workers, and therefore more opportunities for career advancement. I told him that this didn’t address the point I had just made, that private sector contractors were incentivised to make their TUPEED workers redundant. Professor Grant said that he thought that this did address it.

He then said that there was an ongoing consultation process. I said that it ended tomorrow. He thanked me for participating, and said that I should be proud of myself. I told him that unless he did what was absolutely in his power to do, which was stop the outsourcing, this was nothing but condescension. He thanked me again and carried on his way.

Courtesy of a Bloomsbury Fightback! member

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