Protecting workers in privatisation and outsourcing: some lessons learnt from PPPs and the liberalisation of public services

THE ETUI MONTHLY FORUM, 25 November 2008, 12:30 - 14:00h

Protecting workers in privatisation and outsourcing: some lessons learnt from Private-Public Partnerships (PPPs) and the liberalisation of public services

How does the privatisation and outsourcing of public services in Europe impact on performance and employment? How have Private Public Partnerships affected the working conditions for those employed in this sector?

The liberalisation and privatisation of public sector activities has been one of the main political projects of the European Union since the 1990s. While the 'economic' effects in terms of productivity, prices and quality are all but clear-cut, in terms of employment, liberalisation and privatisation has clearly led to job losses and a decline in wages and conditions especially as far as newly-hired workers, the lower qualified and women are concerned.

The quality and efficiency of public services depends on the workers delivering those services. The impact of PPPs and liberalisation on workers thus also has a negative impact on the public service concerned, as it affects workers' motivation, and limits the resources spent on service provision. This concerns everybody, as well as workers themselves.

Unions and other organisations in many European Union countries are developing ways of improving and strengthening the role of public services. These initiatives focus on:

strengthening democratic processes, through public participation; increasing the potential for worker participation;
improving the quality of services, for example through progressive procurement policies; and
strengthening the role of public ownership and public finance.
Such initiatives often involve the development of ideas and arguments to counter the ideology of privatisation and PPPs, as part of a strategy to win greater public support for better, more accountable public services. They are alternatives to the widespread ideology which favours the introduction of the private sector, or private sector management techniques, into public services.


- David Hall (Public Services International Research Unit)

- Christoph Hermann (Working Lives Research Centre, Vienna)

moderated by:

- Penny Clarke (EPSU) and Janine Leschke (ETUI)


International Trade Union House,

first floor, Room C, 12h30 - 14h00

Boulevard du Roi Albert II, 5,

B-1210, Brussels

Please confirm your attendance by 18th November to:

- Tristan Macdonald, Communications Officer, ETUI

00 32 (0)2 224 0562

[email protected]

The ETUI.AISBL is financially supported by the European Community.

Information resources:

- The European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) will shortly publish a new book on the issue of public services, entitled "Privatisation and liberalisation of public services in Europe: an analysis of economic and labour market impacts". It analyses the effects of liberalisation and privatisation on productivity and service provision, employment, wages and working conditions in a number of European countries. Full details will appear shortly on the ETUI website.

- A recent issue of Transfer (02/2008 Public Services in Transition), the ETUI's European Review of labour and research, also analyses the main forces driving the privatisation of public services. The articles discuss the processes of privatisation and the consequences for the trade union movement and industrial relations while also analysing the wider impact the process has on citizenship and democracy. Click here for more details.

click here for Dave Hall's Summary Discussion paper.

- The PIQUE newsletterThe PIQUE Newsletter is published to accompany the major steps of the PIQUE project and offers information on the PIQUE research, project news, events and publications. The European research project PIQUE investigates the relationship between employment, productivity and the quality of public services in the process of liberalisation and privatisation. Click here for more details

Alternatives to PPPs: positive action for in-house services

Protecting workers in PPPs

Critique of PPPs