TUC chief rejects 'market society'

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Indy Politics

The TUC president Bill Morris today said that workers rejected the notion of a "market society" as the row over the running of public services continued to rage.

Mr Morris, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union spoke out against the increased use of the private sector to run public services when he addressed the opening day of the TUC Congress.

Mr Morris, said his theme as TUC President was social justice - for public services and for asylum seekers.

The Government was today moving to head off the controversy over public services by unveiling new proposals to protect workers rights when they moved to a new employer.

Mr Morris said public services could not be fixed by spin or presentation but only by real improvements and investment.

"The quality of our public services defines not just the quality of our lives but also the moral state of our nation.

"We need to acknowledge that a society which largely depends on the private sector to deliver public services would be a very different kind of society from that which is required to create equality and social justice.

"It would be a society in which the priority was shareholder value rather than social need."

Mr Morris said while accepting the realities of a market economy, the notion of a market society had to be rejected.

Mr Morris also repeated his call for an end to the voucher system for asylum seekers, describing it as "demeaning"

He also said it was wrong for asylum seekers to be kept in jails and said there was now an absence of respect in the treatment of asylum seekers.

Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt was pledging to safeguard the rights of public sector workers at the conference later.

She told the Today programme: "The sort of thing that's going wrong - we had for instance a situation where the first company that had lost its contract said 'we no longer employ these people', and the second company which had won the contract said, 'well we don't employ them either, we're not interested in them'.

"And you can't leave people in limbo like that.

"The proposals we've put out today would close these various loopholes. Particularly we want to look at how we're going to safeguard pension rights of workers who are leaving in this way.

"What we are looking at here is how to we get fair treatment for our workers. Because whether they're working for a private sector contractor or whether they've stayed within the public sector ... they're the people on whom our public services depend.

"So we want to make sure that they get good conditions of employment and fair treatment, because that way we'll get better public services."