Bring Council services in house

Unite CEC Branch believes that essential Council jobs should be done by public sector workers.

Bringing and keeping services in-house in the Council

  • ensures workers doing work for the public sector get fair pay and conditions
  • provides better value for money
  • ensures the Council can work sustainably and flexibly
  • means the Council can ensure the climate impact of the work
  • funds the local economy
  • ensures public money isn’t funding suspect business practices in the private sector.

We also believe that bolstering in-house services should be done in such a way that provides sufficient staffing levels to

  • alleviate the pressures of unrealistic workloads
  • protect workers’ health and safety
  • provide space for workers to learn and develop.

Key areas

Our current focus is on jobs related to Housing Property and Facilities Management. This is linked to the opportunities presented by retrofitting work on social housing and the long-term cuts in the service and use of agency staff.

If there are other areas we should focus on, contact a branch official to discuss how we can do this together.

Council background

The 2017-22 Council Administration had a Coalition Commitment (50) to ‘continue a policy of no compulsory redundancies and keep a presumption in favour of in-house service provision‘.

Yet throughout the time of this administration we have seen rampant outsourcing, from the wholesale outsourcing of ICT functions with CGI to areas of Housing Property, school holiday programmes, craft functions with the ‘hard facilities management’ contract and the widespread use of agency staff in services including Waste and Housing Property.

The 24 June 2021 meeting of Full Council approved a motion by Labour Councillor Cammy Day that highlighted the Council’s failure to explore in-house provision in certain areas, and calling for a report on how the Council can expand in-house provision of services.

The 5 October meeting of the Policy and Sustainability Committee approved a response to this motion that recommended to ‘endorse the development of a longer-term, resourced programme of work to consider the most appropriate options for future service delivery’.

We are encouraged by the positive attitude on working collaboratively with the unions from some councillors, for example, this quote from Councillor Mandy Watt in a March 2022 article in Scottish Construction Now:

Housebuilding has a role to play in providing more affordable and energy efficient homes, and to help us meet the city’s growing demand for accommodation. […]

we’re also investing in existing homes and revolutionising housing to provide safer, warmer, and more enjoyable places to live.

As we carry out this work, there is a real opportunity to work with staff and Trade Unions to grow our in-house team and further strengthen our repairs service, to provide the very best customer service and value for money we can. This is a complex piece of work but we’re committed to exploring opportunities for upskilling and apprenticeships in the years ahead

Councillor Mandy Watt, vice convener of Housing, Homelessness and Fair Work Committee

Our campaign

The framework is there for the Council to support in-housing. It cannot do this effectively without consulting with the workers in those service areas to understand how they work and how the services could accommodate work to be brought in house.

As the elected representatives of Council workers, it is crucial that trade unions have a seat at the table in discussions around service provision and any potential procurement.

Hard FM contract

In May 2021, the Council awarded Mitie and Skanska the Hard FM contract, with a value of £18m per year for 7 years, with an option to extend an extra 3 years. This gives these multinational companies the jobs of repairs, maintenance, certifications and inspections across the Council’s 660 buildings.

At the Finance and Resources meeting on 20 May 2021, we gave a deputation challenging the award of the Hard FM contract to Mitie and Skanska, without any consultation with trade unions and the Council workforce or any consideration of in-housing provision of the jobs involved.

Watch the F&R webcast from 20 May 2021 for the full discussion and our deputation below.

Scottish Hazard’s report

We, along with Unison Edinburgh, commissioned an independent report from Scottish Hazards to look at the Council’s procurement procedure for this contract.

The report was released in March 2022 and highlights that the Council did not follow Scottish Government guidance on procurement and missed opportunities to consult with one of the most important stakeholders in this work—the workforce.

We have shared this with the Council leaders and Chief Executive.

Who are Mitie and Skanska?

Mitie and Skanska are huge multinational corporations driven by profit. Both companies have seen controversy related to how they treat workers and how they bid for contracts.

Mitie has been identified as failing to pay their staff the minimum wage. It also operates the UK Government’s immigrant removal centres. The company presents a threat to Council jobs with its advocacy of rapid automation of cleaning.

Skanska held on to public funds for furlough to enable them to pay high dividends to their investors. In the early 2010s it was renown for being the most prolific blacklisting company in construction.

So much for the Council’s commitment to fair work and alleviating poverty!

In-housing Housing Property

In our deputation to the Council’s budget meeting on 24 February 2022 we set out that we believe two priorities for the Council in the coming years must be to invest in frontline workers and bring services in-house.

We followed this up with a deputation to the Housing, Homelessness and Fair Work Committee on 25 March 2022 to call for early engagement on discussions to in-house services in Housing Property and to establish that the trade unions are key stakeholders.

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