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The Real Cost of Privatisation

Privatisation is the scourge of modern political economy. It has been an integral part of the neoliberal project that has dominated government policy across the globe for more than three decades. It is part of driving the market deep into spheres of society previously insulated from business. It is centrally about private firms, their owners and senior managers profiting from services that should be provided publicly and on the basis of need.

This Trade Union Co-ordinating Group publication is an expert and timely balance sheet on the privatisation experience in Britain. It shows conclusively why privatisation is wrong:

  • Privatisation makes public services worse – what people get under privatisation is a worse service.
  • Privatisation costs working people more – fares and charges, along with subsidies from the public purse, mean working people now pay much more for services we need.
  • Privatisation is a huge racket – business makes billions by siphoning off profits.
  • Privatisation hits investment – funds that could be invested to continuously improve the quantity and quality of public services are wasted by privateers and keeping spivs in luxury.
  • Privatisation is bad for safety – both for the public and for the workers in that industry.
  • Privatisation is bad for workers – it means fewer jobs, more stress on those left doing the job, and worse pay and conditions.
  • Privatisation is bad for the environment – it obstructs integration and planning, makes cutting carbon emissions harder, and pollutes without paying for the clear-up.

Privatisation is an irrational way to run public services, if they are meant to meet social needs. It cuts against the collective, cooperative way in which production should be organised.

As trade unionists we are against privatisation, but we are not just anti-privatisation. We have a positive alternative to privatisation: public ownership and democratic control.

We do not advocate a return to the worst aspects of the old, bureaucratic nationalised industries, like the British Rail sandwich. Lessons can be learned from those experiences, but what we want is properly funded public services that really do meet the needs of users. That means giving the workers in those industries as well as the people who use them a real and meaningful voice in running those services.

Public ownership with democratic (including workers’) control would be a more efficient way to run public services. It would make them safer and more attuned to needs, more environmentally-friendly and clearly much better places to work.

This publication makes a concrete case appealing for privatisation to be scrapped and encouraging us to fight for our public services.