Last week I published a blog (reproduced here on manyvoicesblog to aid new readers of this piece) on my visit to Lincolnshire Police HQ to see how the partnership with G4S was coming along, one year in to the ten year contract. I was surprised by what I found because the overriding impression of G4S is that of a company doing as little as possible to get the most profit available. I definitely did not find that in Lincolnshire. I asked someone who works for G4S, in the Policing arena but not under the Lincs contract, if they would write a little bit about their own experience of transferring to G4S. It is important to remember that this person already worked for a private company providing outsourced services to Police. Neither my own writing or the piece below has sought to discuss outsourcing or privatisation. Rather they seek to open a window on the reality of it – the good so that we might celebrate and replicate, but also the bad so that we might improve and change. Increasingly, I am learning that a good contract is a powerful tool. Public services must learn to write, negotiate and control contracts, if they are to successfully outsource. The words below are the result of a poor contract where the needs of the staff (and very possibly the service users too) have been forgotten in the ‘business model’. Public service is all about people and it is the responsibility of modern leaders to ensure outsourcing contracts protect the human element of the business. I hope the following words are read and used as inspiration for betterment, rather than used a stick to beat one side with and an embarrassment to dishonour the other side with. Only by listening to each other can we improve ourselves…
“I was asked by Cate to write about my experience of G4S takeover of the company I worked for as a reply to her blog about how things are going with their new contract with Lincolnshire police. You will have to excuse me as I’m not the best when it comes to writing hopefully Cate will make it look good for me.
I’m pleased it seems to be going well so far in Lincolnshire but my experience of G4S has been far from good.
In July 2008 G4S bought GSL which included the company I worked for (Accuread) things seemed to go well at first then within 4-6 weeks they had managed to lose one of our biggest contracts by trying to be clever – never a good idea with two branches of the same company this was followed by cutting of a lot of staff the team I worked for at the time in London went from 68 to 43 a big hit for the size area, inevitably we started to fail our targets this was followed by an inordinate amount of disciplinary action, in my opinion aimed at getting rid of us permanent staff on the original contracts.
The next idea was to offer everyone 0 hour contracts not a popular option as those not in working in town centres can often have up to 30 minutes drive time in between jobs so technically working a 7 hour day you could possibly only get paid for 3 !
We are like the poor relation of the group, uniform replacement is almost impossible to get we’re told we are entitled to replacement every 12 months, yeah ok, it took me 2 and a half years to get some and then it was only certain items and most of that was the wrong size. The raincoats we have are worse than useless and seem to be designed to let you get as wet as possible great help when you work outdoors. Needless to say I have been looking for other employment for quite a while now and the sooner I find something the better.
Thank you to Cate for the opportunity to get this out there.”
What is clear to me from reading this very honest account is that the level of care for existing employees in this particular setting is not the same as that for those I visited in Lincolnshire Police. I suspect this is because the contracts are very different. The change in employee conditions has been felt keenly and mainly in a negative way and the overriding impression is that employee terms are going to be much worse on new contracts. I would like to use this blog as an opportunity to discuss the thinking behind zero hours contracts and valuing employees. Thoughts, opinions and experiences most welcome.