The collapse of Carillion is dominating the news and political agenda this week, and today UK trade unions have urged the government to take action to protect Carillion employees and the wider economy.
The TUC are leading calls for the government to set up a “national task force” to protect UK firms from the collapse of Carillion, and also wants ministers to conduct “risk assessments” of other large outsourcing firms to ensure they are not facing similar financial difficulties.
Britain’s trade unions are calling for a ‘national task force’ to be set up, to protect UK firms from the collapse of Carillion.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
We urgently need a national task force involving unions to safeguard jobs, services, and pensions.
Workers can’t be left at the back of the queue. Each and every worker at Carillion needs to know where they stand. They have bills and mortgages to pay, and deserve certainty on their future.
And we have to ensure that there aren’t more Carillions on the horizon. That means an immediate risk assessment of all large outsourcing firms with government contracts. Public services are already under pressure, and can’t take another hit like this.
Carillion: What the unions have said so far
The main UK trade unions have moved quickly to issue statements following yesterday’s announcement that Carillion – which employs 20,000 workers in the UK – has fallen into liquidation.
UNISON said that the collapse is “terrible for staff and the taxpayer” and that “government needs to safeguard services and protect staff”.
UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said:
This is a terrible time for the thousands of people employed under Carillion contracts right across the public sector.
Staff need assurances about whether they have a job, who will pay their wages, and what’s going to happen to their pensions.
The government needs to move quickly to bring these contracts back in-house – to safeguard our services and to protect the many staff in schools, hospitals, local authorities and libraries.
It’s disgraceful that Carillion was lining the pockets of its shareholders, even though the company’s future was increasingly uncertain.
Crucial public services have been put at risk, and the taxpayer is going to be stuck picking up the bill for yet another failed privatisation experiment.
Carillion holds key contracts across the health service – with the current winter pressures, staff shortages and underfunding, further uncertainty puts the NHS in a precarious position.
Unite responded to the news warning that “Carillion collapse must not mean `business as usual for big business'”.
Jim Kennedy Unite national officer for local government, said:
These have been a grim few days for this workforce. They will head into work today not knowing if their wages, pensions and even their jobs are safe.
The administrator must provide reassurances on these to the workforce as a matter of urgency, and also that vital public services on which many depend will continue to be provided.
We will be seeking a meeting with the administrator today to press home that that the priorities now are not the shareholders but the workers who provide the service and the people relying on them
One thing is evidently clear from this: there must be no business as usual for big business. There has to be an urgent inquiry into how a company that loaded itself with debt, which undercut competitors with unsustainable bids, which hoovered up vats of public money, and that had repeatedly alerted the government to its own financial shortcomings got its hands on so much of the public sector and taxpayers’ cash.
We are also very concerned about the impact of Carillion’s collapse on the wider supply chain. Many of these small firms are the lifeblood of their community but their exposure to Carillion’s debt puts them at serious risk.
PWC must put workers and suppliers at the head of the queue for payment, not the banks and certainly not the Carillion boardroom whose greed and recklessness has brought this giant company to its knees and imperiled so much of our public services.
GMB have demanded that the government intervene to “protect Carillion workers’ jobs and pensions”.
Rehana Azam, GMB National Secretary, said:
First and foremost, workers’ jobs must be protected. It’s not right that GMB members working for Carillion should face uncertainty and insecurity through no fault of their own.
Handing Carillion bosses a blank cheque bail out is completely unacceptable – company bosses should not be rewarded for failure with public money.
This is a company with an abysmal track record when it comes to protecting workers.
This is yet one more lesson that the failures of privatisation and outsourcing and ministers should be protecting people’s jobs rather than bailing out the company.
We need an urgent task force, including employers and trade unions, to rescue this vital work from the inadequate grip of Carillion management.
We seek transparency about the scale and nature of jobs and contracts which Carillion outsource to other subcontractors to evaluate how the collapse of the company could impact on infrastructure projects, the public sector and the wider economy.
Government needs to urgently consider a public sector vehicle for taking on this vital work, just as it has when private rail companies have walked away and failed the taxpayer.