The University is planning its next staff survey, and this time we have been assured that they will engage in proper consultation. This is good news, because if you remember, lack of consultation was one of the key concerns in the last staff survey. subtext understands that the first round of discussions have already taken place, and that things have not quite gone the way the consultees envisaged. The fundamental question was, of course – who is to conduct the survey? That would be Capita. OK – well the other important question that needs to be agreed at this stage is cost. No – senior management have already decided on an (undisclosed) amount of money allocated to the survey. OK – well an elementary thing to agree on is the actual questions that will appear in the survey. No – senior management have already decided what the questions will be. OK – well, if that is the case then obviously it will be vital that we have input into how the findings will be interpreted. No – senior management have already decided how the survey will be construed. Further meetings are planned, their purpose unclear. Consultation is not a difficult word to understand but it obviously has a very different meaning on D Floor than anywhere else.
subtext wonders why the university continues to do business with Capita, the ‘runaway commercial monster’. Notwithstanding the latest complete shambles that is Capita’s Defence Recruiting System for the armed forces which has been described as ‘utterly disastrous on so many levels’ (https://on.ft.com/2mX9VIF – paywall), Capita is an organisation that has endured years of criticism by the media and the government. The Labour Party has recently called for the government to ‘oversee the activities of Capita’, criticizing its pension deficit, which had been allowed to balloon even as the company paid dividends. There are numerous reports of Capita’s rather cavalier attitude to contracts, delivery, methods of working and treatment of people. These include Capita not fulfilling its £330 million contractual obligation with NHS England in 2015; taking excessive fees for administering contracts including non-compete clauses in contracts with SMEs, preventing them from getting further work from Government without the explicit permission of Capita; and deliberately and systematically making late payments forcing firms to cease trading. Then of course there are the systems actually installed by Capita that are just not working: the electronic tagging debacle, the inadequate Co-op bank IT system, gas compliance services and fire incident dispatch services… their incompetence is putting people’s lives at risk.
Capita has the £58m a year job of collecting license fees on behalf of the BBC, but one BBC report described Capita as operating an ‘aggressive incentive scheme’ – or, targets for how many members of the public you can prosecute. More recently the staff employed by Tascor which is part of Capita were revealed to have used excessive restraint on low-risk asylum seekers on a removal flight out of the UK, according to inspectors from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons.
These are just some of the cases that we know about. subtext has read of several companies who are having ongoing problems with Capita that request to remain anonymous. Are we one of them, or is it the case the university has stupidly tied itself into one of those binding contracts that Capita is infamously renowned for tying organisations into? Why else would they use this company year after year to conduct the staff survey?