According to the Daily Mirror, a large provider of outsourced public services ‘has terminated 2,400 employees’ contracts and issued new ones – including 300 zero-hour agreements‘.
So far, so unsurprising. This is typical of the assault on the rights of low paid workers committed by unscrupulous private employers in the outsourced public service sector. In this case, the organisation responsible is a charity which claims to be a social enterprise.
Last year, Social Enterprise UK took a stand against this kind of behaviour with the publication of The Shadow State.
As that report pointed out: “In many cases a saving in one part of the public purse creates an equal or greater loss in another – for example bidding on price usually creates a race to the bottom on wages, fuelling low pay and inequalities. Low pay has a huge social impact, necessitating in-work benefits which taxpayers must fund, and making it impossible for large sections of the workforce to prepare financially for their old-age and retirement. This also means we are storing up further costs for future taxpayers.“
One of those who gave their ‘time, insight and expertise to the creation of this report’ was Lord Adebowale, chief executive of charity and social enterprise, Turning Point. When discussing low pay creating a race to bottom, it’s a shame they didn’t ask his Lordship whether he was for or against. It seems a shame that this expert wasn’t asked for her input, too.
As expected, Turning Point have offered the kind of response that should be expected in these circumstances. Whether you accept this response will depend on whether believe that by calling yourself a social enterprise you thereby earn the right to replace positive action to deliver social change with a mixture of negative action that actively makes society worse and special pleading.
The suggestion is not that Turning Point are worse than A4E or Serco but that, in terms of their values, they are no different. The need to find entrepreneurial solution to social problems remains as great as ever. I’m wondering if Turning Point are the organisation that prove that describing organisations as ‘a social enterprise’ may have outlived it usefulness. One things for certain, I don’t want to be in a movement with these people.