European court likely to rule against contracted-out staff

A European court case with significant implications for the Government’s
plans for public services looks set to be decided in employers’ favour.

The Advocate General has given his opinion in the case of Lawrence v Regent
Office Care, referred to the European Court of Justice by the Court of Appeal.

It involved a group of dinner ladies and cleaners transferred to the private
sector when North Yorkshire County Council contracted out, who argued that
under European equal pay law they should be able to compare their pay and
conditions directly with workers of equal value still employed by the council.

But last month the Advocate General said it was not possible under Article
141 of the Treaty of Amsterdam for employees of a transferee to compare their
pay with those of the transferor since the terms and conditions were not
derived from the same source.

The ECJ is now expected to rule on the case within the next few months – it
usually follows the A-G’s opinion.

The decision is likely to add fuel to the row caused last month by a leaked
Cabinet Office document suggesting the Government is not after all prepared to
guarantee all employees’ terms and conditions will be protected in public to
private transfers.

The document argued that the scope of the TUPE regulations, which are being
amended to bring them into line with the Acquired Rights Directive, should
continue to exclude both pensions and service contracts.

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