The EU’s Wholesale Privatisation Drive


In the name of raising standards, the Secretary of State now has the power to compel schools to convert to academy status with sponsors from a government approved list of edu-businesses and profit-making companies and a new model appraisal framework will subject teachers to limitless observation and make it possible to dismiss them within one term.


In the name of localism, local authorities are being stripped of the power to provide services to schools and money for key services once provided by local authorities has been devolved to schools which will now have to commission such services themselves – presumably from the plethora of private service providers now fighting over the new market in education services.


Then there are the pensions changes which will see teachers paying substantially more from this month, while they are expected to work until their late sixties or beyond to receive a considerably reduced pension.


On top of this, we have the proposals for localised pay announced in last month's Budget.

Different reasons have been given for each of these changes and, taken in isolation, they may look like an attack on the teaching profession, on local authorities, on local democracy or on individual schools.


However, when you put them all together, the pattern becomes unmistakable. This government is aiming at nothing less than the complete destruction of state education delivered through locally accountable schools by qualified teachers.


The intention to replace this system with a fully privatised one based on a "free" market in education is made clear in government statements both on pay and on pensions.


On December 20 last year, announcing the government's "final offer" on pensions, Danny Alexander stated that "the new pensions will be substantially more affordable to alternative providers. By offering transferred staff the right to remain members of the public service scheme, we are no longer requiring private, voluntary and social enterprise providers to take on the risks of defined benefit that deter many from bidding for contracts in the first place."


Similarly, in his first letter of remit to the new chairman of the School Teachers Review Board, Michael Gove asked them to report on "how the pay framework for teachers should best be made more market facing in local areas," with reference to the private sector.


It is not just education that is under attack. The same process is being carried out across all public services, as the recent passage of the high-profile NHS Bill shows.


We face not just savage austerity cuts but a politically motivated attempt to completely restructure the British economy and effectively abolish the public sector.


This process is being driven across Europe by the EU.



The European Services Directive is already being implemented by the deliberate fragmentation of the rail network, water and energy supplies, and the previously rescued banking sector making it easier for these to be sold off to an increasingly larger conglomerates operating on a European-wide level.


Training and education services are specifically not excluded from the service directive.

On an even wider scale the General Agreement on Trade in Services of the World Trade Organisation will prevent any effective protection being given to "state monopolies" in the provision of anything other than such areas as police, the military, prisons, the justice system and government.


In this context the trade union movement can no longer respond to these attacks on a case by case basis.


The development of the pensions campaign in the run-up to the November 30 protest was a significant step forward as it showed the capacity of the public-sector unions to co-ordinate national action as part of a national campaign.


We now need to develop this one-off co-ordination into an effective ongoing campaign.

This means continuing the pensions campaign with further regional action leading to co-ordinated national action, drawing in as many public and private sector unions as possible.

It also means broadening the battle lines, initially by opening a second front on localised pay, with a view to developing co-ordinated action against government austerity cuts, privatisation and the raft of other attacks we face.


We are in the fight of our lives but it is a fight on a number of different fronts.

If we recognise it, and respond appropriately, we have the potential not only to defeat the current attacks but to sweep away this illegitimate government and provide a real alternative for working people. 

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