23 April 2009 | Jake Kanter
Trade union Unison and Essex County Council (ECC) have held showdown talks in a bid to resolve a bitter dispute over the local authority's outsourcing plans.
Representatives from the union met with Lord Hanningfield, the leader of ECC, this week to agree a way forward after the council issued an OJEU notice last October requesting bids for "any or all" of its services.
Last month Unison regional officer Kumar Sandy described the plan as "bonkers" and demanded that the council confirm if local jobs would be lost (News 19 March 2009).
Following the meeting this week, an ECC statement said the proposal was not a "prelude to extensive outsourcing", but an attempt to attract a commercial partner to assist in delivering a £200 million savings target over the next three years.
It committed to supporting local businesses and said no jobs would be lost to foreign suppliers. The council also confirmed that Unison would be involved in discussions on future plans for the services.
Geoff Reason, regional head of local government at Unison, said the parties had agreed a way forward, but the union would continue is campaign against the "principle of outsourcing services".
"We agree that both Unison and the county council are committed to delivering high quality services for people of Essex," he added.