Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/467/1901
Private companies rule - and ruin
LAST YEAR, all Exeter's secondary schools were rebuilt using private finance initiatives. The private company Carillion (formerly Mowlem) now owns all Exeter's secondary schools and some refurbished primary schools, so the local authority has to pay rent on the buildings for another 28 years, even if they fall out of use.
Jim Thomson Exeter
Carillion are also responsible for the buildings' upkeep and maintenance, although the company would rather save their money. A private company is incapable of maintaining a school, when their only drive is profit.
One year after the new schools opened, ridiculous designs and shoddy building are already causing problems. Unvarnished wood on the external walls, which is now rotting, is a classic example of using cheap materials.
Carillion also have all the catering, cleaning and after-school activity contracts. So on top of huge sums of rent from the council, Carillion also get money through school dinner payments and charge extortionate fees for use of school facilities.
New Labour and pro-business local councils have effectively destroyed the idea of community schools, where everyone can benefit from the facilities that schools offer. Instead local groups can either face a huge charge or hear the door slammed in their face.
New Labour's privatisation project means that, while the council pays Carillion thousands for rent, they recently scrapped proposals to pay teaching assistants (TAs) a decent wage. Instead, many TAs face a pay cut in the new proposed job evaluation.
TAs like myself are on the pitiful wage of just over £7,000 per year. But many TAs with years of experience and extended responsibility will see their wages fall even lower, while others will get nowhere near their promised pay rise.
TAs are integral to the effective learning of students, many from disadvantaged backgrounds. However, the council would rather pay fat-cat shareholders instead of paying hard working dedicated staff.
UNISON must forge an effective fighting policy to protect our pay and conditions. This will be achieved by workers building their unions into radical organisations that stand up for their grassroots members.
In Exeter both our Labour MP and our pro-big business Lib Dem council, have shown they rate profit higher than people. We also need a new workers' party to stand as an alternative to these people just as unions need to stand up for their members who face uncertain futures under Blair's reign of privatisation.
In The Socialist 15 December 2006:
War and terrorism
Violence against women
Workplace news and analysis
Socialist Party Marxist analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party news and analysis
The Socialist Xmas quiz