New code to put an end to ‘two-tier workforce’

The
Government has agreed a code of practice which union Unison claims will put a
stop to the creation of a two-tier workforce in local government.

At
present, existing local government staff who transfer to private companies have
their pay, conditions and pensions protected, but new starters are often paid
substantially less. The new code revealed today, covering contracts between
local authorities and private companies, will mean new staff will get pay and
conditions that are overall "no less favourable" than transferred
staff.

Unison
had rejected an earlier proposal for "broadly comparable" pay and
conditions as too ambiguous and open to abuse.

Unison
general secretary Dave Prentis claimed that the union has achieved its major
objective of making the code enforceable rather than voluntary, which the
private companies had been insisting on.

The
code’s provisions will be written into new contracts and, in future, staff who
feel they have been unfairly treated will be able to seek redress.

For
the first time, private companies will have to provide pensions for new
starters. Prentis said that Unison had expressed concerns that new starters are
either not given access to a pension scheme or end up in money purchase
schemes, which are less favourable than the local government pension scheme – a
final salary scheme.

Prentis
said: "The bottom line is that the Government and the Prime Minister gave
a commitment to end the two-tier workforce. After 18 months of intense
discussions and negotiations, I am pleased that Unison has brokered this
ground-breaking deal.

"When
this code comes into force, private companies will be prevented from winning
contracts by cutting the pay and conditions of staff, and will have to compete
on a level playing field for the first time. I am confident that when it comes
to competing on quality, the public sector will beat private sector companies
hands down and more contracts will return in-house."

By Ben Willmott

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