Unions unimpressed by government assurances on Tupe

13 Sep 01
Ministers' attempts to convince unions that the public sector is safe in government hands failed this week when plans to give extra rights to state employed staff who switch to the private sector were condemned as inadequate.

14 September 2001

A number of union chiefs, including those usually most loyal to the government, claimed the proposals did not go far enough and showed that ministers were out of touch.

Government plans to give millions of staff stronger pension rights under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations [Tupe] were unveiled by Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt on September 10 at the TUC conference in Brighton.

'Workers need reassurance that their rights will be safeguarded in the vital process of public sector reform and in business restructuring in the private sector,' she said.

However her words failed to appease government critics. 'The improvements were welcome but they don't go far enough,' said Dave Prentis, general secretary of the biggest public sector union, Unison. He said workers needed a 'categorical assurance' that their pensions would be worth the same when they transferred to a private scheme.

Even Sir Ken Jackson, a loyal New Labour ally and general secretary of the Amalgamated Electrical and Engineering Union, was critical. 'Ministers do not seem to be able to grasp what is going on out there, with hundreds of thousands of people at risk of being made redundant,' he said.

Hewitt's speech was given only the briefest of applause. But she had more luck with employers.

CBI director general Digby Jones said removing workers' fears about pensions was a 'top priority'. 'The government has already done a great deal to soothe fears about staff pension transfers but if concerns remain then ministers are right to look again,' he added.


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