Best Value Review fails to resolve two-tier workforce dispute

16 May 02
Trade unions have reacted with anger to the Local Government Best Value Review findings, unveiled this week, claiming that ministers have failed to tackle adequately the contentious issue of the two-tier workforce.

17 May 2002

The review upheld Local Government Secretary Stephen Byers' promise to develop a code of practice for employment terms and conditions for outsourced staff.

In announcing the findings on May 14, local government minister Nick Raynsford said that private contractors would be compelled to negotiate on the terms and conditions of new starters with trade unions, to ensure they are 'broadly comparable' with those in local government. They will also be required to provide pensions.

But the findings do not spell out the definition of 'broadly comparable' conditions.

And, as expected, Raynsford steered clear of the formal system of arbitration the unions had called for.

Mick Graham, local government organiser at the GMB union, said: 'There is nothing in this document that protects the terms and conditions of public sector workers.'

He added that the GMB was 'now considering ways of escalating its opposition' to the findings.

Jack Dromey, the T&G union's national organiser, who sat on the review group, said: 'The failure to provide for arbitration to resolve disputes is a significant and unacceptable weakness.'

But Matthew Warburton, head of futures at the Local Government Association, said that Raynsford had 'initiated a framework through which the unions' concerns over the two-tier workforce could be resolved.'


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