Moving Beyond the Two-Tier Workforce

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2008 National Delegate Conference
20 February 2008

Conference notes that there have been at least six different agreements in operation that attempt to protect the terms and conditions of staff working for contractors on public service contracts, including new starters. They each apply to different sectors, devolved administrations, occupational groups whilst some sectors do not even have this minimalist protection (eg Academies, higher education, further education, large scale voluntary transfer (social housing) and Independent Sector Treatment Centres).

We further note that the New Labour government has not studied the impact of contracting out on the workforce nor evaluated the application of the alleged protections it has put in place. The 4Ps (Office of Government Commerce) who advise local authorities on procurement matters, claim the Code of Practice on Workforce Matters in Local Authority Service Contracts does not apply to re-tendered contracts that were originally tendered before the Code came into force.

We also note that the Code’s implementation is, at best, patchy. Some branches have managed to negotiate secondment and TUPE plus arrangements. Some councils even allow contractors to pay market rates, which are generally set at the level of the minimum wage.

Conference is concerned that the Code’s are self-limiting as they are predicated on there being at least one employee who is a TUPE transferee still on public sector terms and conditions, as a comparator working on the contract. Unless a contract is taken back in-house, eventually all the original staff will have left or retired and the Codes will no longer apply.

We also note (with the implementation of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act) that Best Value is being reviewed – with few Performance Indicators and no requirement for annual statements.

Even less monitoring may be a consequence. UNISON believes that the Codes are not adequate enough to protect members in the medium to long term.

Therefore Conference resolves to request the National Executive Council and service groups to:

1) urgently conduct and assessment of all public sector contracts and the

associated workforce codes of practice etc. Producing statistical

information which can be used to analyse the effectiveness or otherwise

of existing codes;

2) liaise with other trade unions to co-ordinate best practice in-house

service improvement plans using up-to-date research evidence;

3) set up a campaign (in liaison with Positively Public) to oppose

further outsourcing, marketisation and privatisation using political


4) produce a database, which shows the level of outsourcing on a

regular basis – indicating whether the amount of directly delivered

democratically accountable services are increasing or decreasing;

5) bring a report back to next year’s Conference, which assesses the

likelihood of achieving a single public employee status with common

terms and conditions. This should be based on the most favourable

terms and conditions currently existing (ie levelling up and not the

race to the bottom).