Public sector workers have gone the extra mile again and again during this pandemic. Just think of our amazing NHS and social care staff who have put their lives at risk to protect and save others. Consider the fire and rescue services staff who drove ambulances, distributed personal protective equipment and delivered supplies to vulnerable people, and the civil servants who worked around the clock to get furlough off the ground – saving millions of livelihoods in the process – and so many others.
Their efforts are all the more remarkable when you consider how much the public sector has been strained by years of devastating cuts and wasteful outsourcing. This crisis has shown once again why outsourcing should play no role in our public services.
I was appalled at how private contractors cashed in as the NHS scrambled for supplies for PPE, selling kit to hospitals at eye-watering prices that turned out in many case to not to be fit for purpose. But that was one was only one in a long line of scandals and failures. Look at the billions wasted on test and test trace – a system that should have been entrusted to local authorities and public health directors.
That’s why we called for a public sector vaccine roll out, led by the NHS working in partnership with local authorities and public health teams. And the success of the programme to date has shown what can be achieved when we use the expertise and reach of our public service providers.
The government must learn from this and commit to re-building our public services as we emerge from this crisis. And that means investing in the workforce. When the pandemic struck, key workers were there for us, and we need to there for them, by improving pay, terms and conditions – particularly for those on the low wages, like care workers.
That is why we are campaigning tooth and nail against the government’s plan to freeze pay for millions of public sector workers. And it’s why we are demanding that outsourced public sector workers are given the same rights and pay as directly-employed public sector staff who work alongside them.
But our vision extends beyond pay. We are fighting for public services that lead the way on greening our economy and society and support inclusive economic growth and the needs of an ageing population. Public services must be at the heart of our recovery from the pandemic. There can be no return to the austerity and outsourcing that has been the default setting of government for the last ten years.
We welcome the positive agenda for public services and insourcing that Rachel Reeves set out for Labour this week. World-class public services need proper investment and a recognition that outsourcing is not the solution – it is often the problem.
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