Unions unhappy with two-tier code of practice

25 Jul 02
Local government minister Nick Raynsford faces new arguments over the government's code of practice on the two-tier workforce after the long-awaited draft was published this week.

26 July 2002

He was immediately criticised by the public sector unions for what they see as his failure to protect employee benefits and conditions adequately.

Malcolm Wing, Unison's national secretary, described the draft as 'weak and ambiguous'. He said: 'If the government really wants to stop contractors in local government exploiting staff by cutting pay and conditions, it will need to significantly strengthen these provisions.' Wing said it was likely to 'lead to more disputes'.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister described the draft, published on July 24, as 'a further step towards ensuring fair treatment for all employees working on local authority contracts'.

It attempts to clarify boundaries within which employers – private and public – can draw up staff contracts, and forms part of the ODPM's wider consultation on Best Value and Performance Improvement within the local government sector.

As expected, however, it has not clarified just how employers should interpret terms such as the 'broadly comparable' benefits that should be offered to staff transferred from public bodies.

Raynsford said the code 'would end the threat of a two-tier workforce' and once again focus the debate in local government on the issue of improving services.

Private employers welcomed the draft. Michael Roberts, the CBI's director of business environment, said: 'The government has done the right thing for public services and ensured the code has sufficient flexibility for employers.'


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