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volume 11 number 1 2011 Spring Edition

federation news



The Institute of Employment Rights 4th Floor Jack Jones House 1 Islington Liverpool L3 8EG tel: 0151 702 5265 fax: 0151 702 5264 email:

General Federation of Trade Unions 4th Floor Headland House 308/312 Grays Inn Road London WC1X 8DP 020 7520 8340 (24hrs) fax: 020 7520 8350 email:

The Institute of Employment Rights was launched in 1989. As a labour law ‘think tank’, supported by the trade union movement, its purpose is to provide research, ideas and detailed argument. In 1994 the Institute was granted charitable status.

The General Federation of Trade Unions was founded in 1899. It provides services and benefits, mainly in the fields of education and research, to affiliated unions. The education work of the Federation is administered through an Educational Trust, which was established in 1971. Federation News is a series of short articles in the subject areas of labour law, labour economics and industrial relations, which are of interest to industrial relations practitioners and students.

The results of the work of the Institute are published in papers and booklets and developed at conferences and seminars. Our aim is to provide the tools of analysis and debate for the trade union movement in the area of labour law.

We welcome the submission of articles for consideration for publication in future editions. Please send articles to the Institute of Employment Rights at the above address or electronically to The views expressed in Federation News do not represent the collective views of the Institute of Employment Rights or of the GFTU, but only the views of the authors. The responsibility of the Institute and the GFTU is limited to approving this publication as worthy of consideration within the labour movement.

Editor Michael Bradley Executive Editor for this edition Richard Beresford Advisory Editorial Board John Bell Richard Beresford Stephen Cavalier Bill Dewhurst Rosie Eagleson Keith Ewing John Fray Dan Gallin John Hendy Judith Jackson Carolyn Jones Joe Mann Aileen McColgan Doug Nicholls Roger Seifert Dave Spooner Roger Welch Frank Wilkinson ISSN 0014 9411

VO LU M E 11 N U M BE R 1 S P R I N G 2011

Contents Editorial: Private Enterprise in Public Services: The Final Frontier?

Richard Beresford


Back to the 80’s. Self employment: an economic and moral panacea?

Richard Beresford


The Shrinking State

Len McCluskey


GP Commissioning – the Wrong Prescription

Dave Prentis


IER events catalogue

Centre Page Pullout

Enterprise in education: From hubris to nemesis?

Alasdair Smith


Private Enterprise and Europe. ‘Liberalisation’: Who wins, who loses?

Brian Denny and Linda Kaucher


Enterprise and regulation – what about the workers?

Phil James




Editorial: Private Enterprise in Public Services: The Final Frontier? The language of enterprise has come to dominate British society at virtually every level, infiltrating seemingly unrelated aspects of social and economic life in seemingly unrelated ways. Associated with the 1980’s Conservative government, enterprise was central to the Thatcher government’s ideological commitment to moving people away from a perceived dependency (reliance on the state) to an enterprise (self reliant) culture. This was part of a Tory objective to reduce the size of government, to limit union rights and to extend the market model to new areas of the public sector, starting with public utilities like gas, rail and telecoms. Over the course of that decade, the concept and word “enterprise” was variously expanded to take on a linguistic and symbolic dimension aimed at providing the discredited private business sector with an enterprising spirit while conversely labelling its opponents as lazy dependents on the nanny state. Today, a similar enterprise crusade has been launched to provide both moral and economic justification for unprecedented cuts and for a wider attempt to re-invent the public sector along self-styled ‘entrepreneurial’ lines – a euphemism for privatisation. This edition therefore provides a timely critique of the Coalition government’s enterprise agenda, reminding readers of its historical legacy, highlighting its ideological nature and challenging both its democratic and economic legitimacy. The first article, by Richard Beresford, draws on the experiences of the 1980’s to question the efficacy of (re) introducing enterprise policies which encourage greater levels of self employment at the same time as cutting jobs and spending in the public sector. As the author explains, these policies will hit the poorer regions of the UK hardest. And rather than leading to an innovative small business economy as claimed, will lead to ‘race to the bottom local economies’ where the unemployed are forced into setting up businesses in areas with declining levels of affluence, whose only competitive advantage is longer hours and lower prices. Len McCluskey’s article draws on a recent report produced for UNITE by Howard Reed which highlights how the proposed public sector cuts and subsequent outsourcing of services to the private sector will shatter the compact between the citizen and the state. The report finds that there has been no convincing case made to support the ‘reforms’


other than spurious references to the ‘big society’ and other ill thought through initiatives. This theme is extended by Dave Prentis whose article focuses on the threat posed by the Health and Social Care Bill to the NHS. Prentis argues that the Bill has no mandate nor logic, other than a long standing Tory ambition to dismantle the NHS and open healthcare to the free market. The only beneficiaries of the Bill are private providers, desperate to get access to lucrative NHS contracts. The Health and Social Care Bill, Dave concludes, is undemocratic, unaffordable and unnecessary. Alasdair Smith’s article looks at the impact of enterprise in education as initially introduced during the 1980’s and subsequently taken up with some gusto by New Labour. The Academies programme, introduced by New Labour, is being massively extended by the Coalition government and used to break both collective bargaining and the mutuallysupporting relationship between schools and local authorities. As with other articles in this edition, it shows how demand for change is currently being engineered using the language of enterprise. In reality, “enterprise” represents nothing more than contempt for the state and its employees and an ideological desire to complete unfinished businesses. The article by Brian Denny and Linda Kaucher also challenges the true purpose of the government’s enterprise agenda, arguing that it is merely a smokescreen for liberalising public services and cutting wages. Rooting the problem in the wider EU context through a discussion of policy papers and Directives, the authors show that far from benefitting small enterprises the true beneficiaries will be – and indeed are intended to be – transnational corporations. Phil James pursues this theme, demonstrating how the Coalition government uses the language of enterprise as convenient camouflage for a neoliberal agenda, placing the needs of private enterprise above the welfare of workers and their families. In particular he shows how employment legislation is branded a bureaucratic imposition. The article argues that this is a false antithesis, demonstrating in particular that a healthy workplace is an enterprising workplace. Richard Beresford


providing information promoting new ideas progressing the case for fair rights and free unions 16

federation news

Richard Beresford is Director of the Centre for Creativity and Enterprise Development at Oxford Brookes University

Brian Denny is a journalist focusing on trade union and European

affairs. Brian edits RMT news and was convenor for the no2eu trade union bulletin.

Phil James is Professor of Employment Relations at Oxford

Brookes University. He has researched and published widely in the field of occupational health and safety, twice served as a specialist adviser to the Work and Pensions Select Committee on inquiries into the work of the HSC and HSE and is a member of the executive committee of the Institute of Employment Right (IER). Phil is Deputy Editor of the journal Policy and Practice in Health and Safety and is co-author (with David Walters) of the book Regulating Health and Safety at Work: An Agenda for Change?, published by the IER.

Carolyn Jones is Director of the Institute of Employment Rights.

Linda Kaucher is a researcher and writer focusing on

international trade.

Len McCluskey is General Secretary of, UNITE

Dave Prentis is General Secretary of UNISON, the public

services union.

Published by the GFTU Educational Trust 4th Floor Headland House 308/312 Grays Inn Road London WC1X 8DP in association with The Institute of Employment Rights 4th Floor Jack Jones House 1 Islington Liverpool L3 8EG

Produced by IER Printed by Upstream Cover pic: Adapted, with kind permission from ATL, from the cover of their report which is available at of Price ÂŁ8 to IER subscribers and members (ÂŁ30 others)

Alasdair Smith is currently a Senior Lecturer in Education at London Metropolitan University. He taught history in a north London secondary school for 15 years and has been involved in training teachers for more than decade. He is a parent of two teenage boys and has served as a parent governor for more than 4 years. He is National Secretary of the Anti Academies Alliance.

Preview.Federation News Spring 2011  

A series of articles examining the impact of private enterprise moving in on public services.