Early this week (W/b Monday 13 Oct) a broad coalition of voluntary organisations and unions will launch a petition calling for fair funding where Scottish public service contracts are undertaken by the voluntary sector.
The petition - jointly submitted by the STUC, SCVO, Unite, UNISON and Community Care Providers Scotland urges the Scottish Government to demonstrate commitment to the third sector by agreeing a National Framework for Public Service Contracts between the Scottish Government, purchasers and providers.
This is the first time voluntary sector employers and trade unions have joined together to campaign, demonstrating the danger posed to the contribution of the increasingly professional voluntary sector to high quality public services by current funding challenges.
Simon Macfarlane, UNISON's Lead Officer for the Community & Voluntary Sector said; "We hope there will be a massive response to this petition as our members in the sector are really suffering as a consequence of skewed tendering processes and real term funding cuts. Pay and conditions in the voluntary sector were already well below the public sector, but the latest funding crisis means there is increased downward pressure on pay. Our members look after the most vulnerable with compassion, dignity and respect. They deserve to be valued not caught up in a spiral to the bottom with the services they provide being shunted from one provider to the next based on who can provide the service cheapest."
Some voluntary organisations are being contracted to perform public services for less than those services cost to deliver - putting at risk the quality of services for the most vulnerable in society.
Stephen Maxwell, Associate Director of SCVO said: "The voluntary sector's front line workers are crucial to the sector's capacity to provide high quality personalised services to Scotland's 'at risk' citizens. Their contribution to essential public services deserves to be rewarded at the same level as their front-line colleagues in the public sector. Voluntary organisations need to be funded fairly to cover the full costs of employing front-line staff at this level, particularly when their alternative funding sources will be under added pressure as a result of the financial crisis".
Jackson Cullinane Deputy Scottish Secretary for UNITE said "UNITE fully supports this joint petition to highlight the grave issues affecting workers across the not for profit sector. We are committed to exposing the shameful funding cuts being carried out by local authorities where low paid workers, who are contracted to deliver key public services, are being expected to literally subsidise the state by sustaining cuts to their pay and conditions. These workers deserve pay equality with their colleagues in the Public Sector and we will be bringing a range of evidence to the Parliament to demonstrate the need for it to act urgently on this issue."
The petition urges the Scottish Government to agree a National Framework for Public Service Contracts between the Scottish Government, purchasers and providers, based on the principles in a 2007 pact agreed between the submitting organisations. It covers the key areas of concern:
- A commitment by public sector purchasers to fund wages and conditions of employment for front line workers in third sector providers at the same level as front line workers in the public sector
- Five year contracts for third sector service providers to replace current short term funding arrangements
- Agreement on the appropriate use of competitive tendering to minimise disruption to the users of services, reduce transaction costs and increase the stability of jobs and services
- A government initiative to improve the standard of public sector commissioning to achieve the government's aim of high quality personalised services
- Fresh Best Value Guidance to strengthen the importance of quality and effectiveness proportionate to cost; defining quality, how to measure it, and the role of service users, families, trade unions and the wider community in monitoring and assessment.
It is important to note that the voluntary sector in Scotland is worth just under £3.9bn and research by SCVO has found that the sector employs an estimated 129,000 professional paid staff, more than employment in Financial Services, and the Electricity, Gas & Water Supply industries. ENDS
Note to Editors:
The full text of the pact is available at http://www.scvo.org.uk/scvo/PolicyAndParliament/ViewPolicyInformation.aspx