Boost to workers’ rights

The government has proposed greater protection
for the employment rights of former public sector workers in
privatised services who are then transferred to other

Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt
announced proposals for a number of changes to the TUPE (Transfer
of Undertakings, Protection of Employment) regulations at last
week’s Trade Union Congress annual conference.

They include ensuring existing employment
rights are transferred when a privatised contract is awarded to a
new employer, giving protection for ongoing occupational pension
rights. But the regulations would be applied with “greater
flexibility” when applied to insolvent businesses.

Hewitt told the conference: “The government
recognises that the existing regulations are not working as well as
they might. We can’t allow workers to be left in limbo when a
public service contract transfers from one company to another.”

Hewitt also announced proposals for a
wholesale review of the Employment Relations Act 1999, which makes
it easier to demand trade union recognition.

The conference passed a motion calling on the
government to apply the legislation to companies with less than 21
employees and to make recognition automatic if half the workforce
already belongs to a union.

TUC President Bill Morris told the conference
that policy on public services was creating a society in which “the
financial imperative takes precedence over social justice”.

Tony Blair had expected a rough ride from the
conference over the government’s policy of more private sector
management in public services but cancelled his speech following
the terrorist atrocity in the United States.

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