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The BBC's Jonty Bloom
"Although Union and its members helped to re-elect Labour, Stephen Byers got a rough reception"
 real 56k

The BBC's political correspondent Guto Harri
"Something has gone seriously sour"
 real 28k

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis
"Where is the evidence the private sector is more efficient?"
 real 28k

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott
"We have to justify public value for money"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 20 June, 2001, 01:46 GMT 02:46 UK
Privatisation debate hots up
Hospital ward
Unison is opposed to privatisation of public services
Government plans to give private companies a bigger role in running public services are expected to meet with more opposition on Wednesday.

Members of the public sector union Unison heckled the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, Stephen Byers when he spoke on the issue at their annual conference in Brighton on Tuesday.

Where are all these brilliant managers coming forward to run all our industries? They just aren't there

Anne McCormack, Unison member

The debate is set to continue as Unison members discuss a motion calling for a big campaign against private action, including backing strike action.

Unison, which has over one million members, believes privatisation will mean lower pay and worse conditions for its members.

The union also feels that the proposed changes would not necessarily result in better services.

Byers heckled

Mr Byers told Unison members on Tuesday that the government planned to invest an additional 50bn in public services over the next three years.

"In the real world virtually every public service engages private partners," said Mr Byers.

"What matters is the quality and value of the services on offer."

Certain Unison members booed sections of Mr Byers' speech and there was loud applause when he said that some people were dogmatically attached to the notion of public ownership.

Unison worker Anne McCormack, an education worker from St Helens, gave a hint of the tough task the government faces in persuading some members.

She said the government needed only to look at the railways to see how privatisation could have disastrous results.

I can't see us doing anything unless we have confrontation, because we are getting nowhere

Shirley Ford, Unison member
"What does it (the government) have to look at to realise that privatising our industry is not the way?" she said.

"Where are all these brilliant managers coming forward to run all our industries? They just aren't there."

Shirley Ford, another Unison member who works as a school cleaning supervisor said industrial action was inevitable if the government pushed ahead.

"I can't see us doing anything unless we have confrontation, because we are getting nowhere," she said.

A survey of 4,500 local authority workers by Unison, released on Tuesday, showed that two-thirds of public sector employees considered quitting their jobs last year.

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See also:

19 Jun 01 | Business
Byers heckled at union conference
11 Jun 01 | Business
Union challenge for Labour
27 Feb 01 | Key People
Stephen Byers: Trade and Industry
03 Apr 01 | Business
Will bigger unions be better?
25 May 01 | Mike Baker
Is this school privatisation?
16 May 01 | Vote2001
Reforming public services
25 May 01 | Vote2001
Unions ready for Blair battle
29 May 01 | Vote2001
Labour 'threat' to free NHS
25 May 01 | Vote2001
Union pressure on Labour
17 Apr 01 | UK Politics
Airfield services to be privatised
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