Tensions are mounting between employer representatives after the government announced new demands on private firms bidding for public service contracts last week.
A joint statement by the Cabinet Office, union umbrella body the TUC and business group the CBI said firms working for the state would have to give all their employees basic skills training and promote trade union rights.
But other business groups are not as keen on the new rights, which they say will make it even harder for firms to win lucrative government contracts. There is also a growing feeling that employment law is being decided by a cosy club.
Earlier this summer, the CBI did a similar deal with the government and the TUC to give temps equal rights to permanent staff after just six weeks in a job.
Susan Anderson, director of public services at the CBI, said: “The CBI endorses these guidelines as a basis for ensuring that staff in public services, in all sectors, are valued and get the opportunity to develop.”
But David Yeandle, head of employment policy at manufacturers’ body the EEF, said: “There are concerns. With important issues for the economy, it is important the government takes into account the views of all stakeholders. Not every employee is a member of the TUC, and not every employer is a member of the CBI.”
The latest duties on firms going for state deals come just weeks after the draft Equality Bill said they would have to publish diversity statistics such as their gender pay gap.
A spokesman for the British Chambers of Commerce said: “Tendering for public contracts is complex enough without adding further layers of bureaucracy to the process. Complexity often discourages smaller firms from submitting tenders.”
What this deal means for employers
The 16-page document states that the government will use its power as a procuring body to boost basic skills and trade union rights.
On training, it said: “[The government will] include in government contracts, performance conditions requiring contractors to provide access to basic skills training.”
On union rights, it added: “Government organisations commissioning and monitoring contracts for services will encourage service providers to provide information on trade unions and communicate this information to their employees in a timely and appropriate manner.”