Staff training would be made compulsory for companies bidding for public service contracts under radical union plans.
The TUC is in talks with the government about the move, which would see bidding firms only awarded contracts if they commit to giving employees basic skills.
Frances O’Grady, TUC deputy general secretary, said bidding employers should have to sign the Leitch Review pledge that they would train their staff to Level Two – the equivalent of five A-C grade GCSEs.
“The government spends £125bn a year on procuring goods and services, and that is one hell of a lever,” she told Personnel Today. “All the firms I see say that if winning a public contract depended on having a commitment to gain Investors in People accreditation and signing the basic skills pledge, and there was a level playing field, they would welcome it.”
O’Grady said she had made the argument to the government and was “optimistic” it would become reality.
It is the latest in a string of calls for extra responsibilities to be placed on companies bidding for public service contracts.
Last week, the Treasury launched a Sustainable Procurement Action Plan to promote carbon, water and waste efficiency in public service deals.
But employers’ groups have criticised the moves. The CBI said that public contracts should be awarded on the basis of value for money.
Martyn Hart, chairman of the National Outsourcing Association, which represents large firms bidding on these deals, said that using the public purse to promote equality, the environment and workplace training was a good idea. But it would cost money and be hard to police.