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LAW TO PROTECT TRANSFERRED STAFF

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Proposals to extend safeguards for staff affected by the sale of firms or transfer of public sector contracts have ...
Proposals to extend safeguards for staff affected by the sale of firms or transfer of public sector contracts have won a cautious welcome.

Trade secretary Patricia Hewitt said plans were under way to change the law to give workers more protection when they are transferred from the public sector to the private sector. The law would ensure their existing rights continue even if they are

subsequently transferred to another private sector company.

Addressing the TUC, she said: 'We can't allow workers to be left in limbo when a

public service contract transfers from one company to another. Workers need reassurance that their rights will be safeguarded in the vital process of public sector reform and in business restructuring in the private sector.

That's why the proposals for the reform of the TUPE arrangements will include looking at occupational pension.'

She added: 'The government recognises the existing regulations are not working as well as they might do. Employers and employees, contractors and clients have all been pressing for change.'

The congress, which was dominated by anger at Labour's plans to extend private sector involvement in public services, heard that refuse collectors in Brighton had been transferred between four employers in six years through the contracting process.

Jack Dromey, T&G National Organiser said the move was a step in the right direction, but cautioned: 'These proposals are not the answer to all our prayers. They are not a guarantee of full protection for the lifetime of the contract, but they do represent progress.'

Cliff Davis-Coleman of the Public Contractors Association said the proposed reform would have to be substantial to overcome 'two decades of courtroom confusion.

'Unfortunately the government is still missing the crucial point - TUPE regulations are being interpreted in different ways by different courts and tribunals to the detriment of both workers and the private sector companies that employ them.'

- Welsh local government minister Edwina Hart has refused to tow the government's line on increasing partnerships with the private sector.

She told delegates at the Welsh Local Government Association: 'I look forward

to a full and considered response to what

I see as an important issue. We need to

have a distinct Welsh response to these issues.'

While accepting there should be no 'ideological barriers' to service delivery she only mentioned the voluntary sector in her speech - and ignored the private sector.

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