Government changes to the Transfer of Undertakings and Protection of Employment (TUPE) will drive down pay and conditions for hundreds of thousands of workers and make privatisation cheaper and quicker, warns the TUC as the new legislation comes into effect today (Friday).
TUPE law protects employees’ pay and conditions of work when a business is transferred from one owner to another. Staff automatically become employees of the new employer on the same terms as they were on before, and their continuity of service is also protected. The government’s estimates that there are between 26,500 and 48,000 TUPE transfers around the UK each year.
The changes being made by the government, which come into effect today, will substantially weaken these protections and reduce job security. This will make it far easier for unscrupulous employers will to drive down conditions in workplaces and lay off staff, says the TUC.
The TUC fears that the changes will have a big impact on low-paid staff in commonly contracted-out services such as cleaning, catering and social care, where the workforce is predominantly made up of women and black and Asian workers.
In addition, under the new plans all employers will now be able to re-negotiate changes to collective agreements one year after taking over a business. This could encourage employers to cut pay and conditions and dismiss staff after a transfer takes place, which may encourage workplace disputes, warns the TUC.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Watering down TUPE law means hundreds of thousands of vulnerable workers around the UK will lose out on vital protections at work. This is a deliberate bid by government to make privatisation cheaper and quicker.
“Weakening guarantees on pay and conditions will encourage unscrupulous companies to compete for contracts based solely on low costs and not on the quality of service.
“This increases the risk of poverty pay for the predominantly women, black and Asian workers in industries where privatisation is common, like catering, social care and cleaning.
“The government is sending a clear signal to employers that the rights and pay of low-paid workers are not important at a time when living standards are being hugely squeezed. Ministers should be addressing poverty pay, not weakening vital workplace rights.”
NOTES TO EDITORS:
– According to the government’s impact assessment between 26,500 and 48,000 TUPE transfers take place each year (BIS (2013) Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006: Consultation on Proposed Changes to the Regulations).
– All TUC press releases can be found at www.tuc.org.uk
– Follow the TUC on Twitter: @tucnews