Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/786/17666
Mental health services - fighting privatisation in Salford
Kevin Corran, Salford Socialist Party
Early this year, workers in Salford's Community Mental Health Services were told that Greater Manchester West (GMW) NHS Mental Health Trust, who we were seconded to and managed by, would no longer provide that role.
So, they said, we would probably be outsourced to the private sector.
Support workers knew full well what privatised care often means for staff and service users and were terrified by this prospect.
We couldn't sit back and let it happen. This staff team has 100% union membership with years of experience of fighting cuts.
We also have a close relationship with service users and carers' groups in Salford which were vital in several successful campaigns.
Through the union, we approached our senior managers to call on the council to take back direct management from GMW and give us security as in-house staff.
They told us it wasn't possible, but we wouldn't accept that. We said 'savings' could be made by placing us under the management of existing council managers instead of spending money on GMW managers.
Our persistence - and our reputation as workers who don't take the word 'no' particularly well - convinced commissioners within the council (who decide who gets to provide what services) to let us try to find a council-delivered model.
Workshops over three months pulled together the council, GMW, Unison and a service user rep.
Together we came up with a plan that gave us within the union the opportunity to show that our involvement not only protects staff, but also provision of services.
Unfortunately there will be some voluntary redundancies, people who are determined to leave, but no compulsory redundancies, no cuts in pay or terms and conditions, no loss of service to any individual and of course, no privatisation.
In services, one overnight place will close but places will be found for all the residents.
The place will not be closed before they have moved while a new facility is created with more beds in it. In fact the council has pledged more capital investment.
It shows that if you're persistent and organise through the union you can still get vital concessions.
The union must make sure that the voice of the workforce, the users and those who have ideas to make the service better are heard.
Linking unionised staff, carers and service user groups has produced a formidable force to protect services in Salford.
It will be a vital component in organising opposition to any more cuts that threaten workers and service-users.
Cuts Can Be Beaten
Read more about the battle to defend mental health support services in Salford in 'Cuts Can Be Beaten - how mental health service users took on Salford Council and won'
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In The Socialist 30 October 2013:
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