Category Archives: employment

Unison ready to fight against mutuals and rails against ‘self-interested’ third sector

By David Bicknell

It would be nice to think that the unions might see something positive in mutuals, a new (old) way of doing business, perhaps. Maybe an open mind?

But no. The latest communication from Unison – call to arms might be a better description – is profoundly depressing for anyone who sees the possibilities offered by mutuals and co-operatives. It is dismissively critical of what it calls the ‘self interested’ third sector. I suppose I shouldn’t have been that surprised by the tone.

Here’s a taste of its invective:

“Whilst the Cabinet Office desperately struggles to reinvent the failing ‘big society’ policy the LGA recently reported that less than 3% of councils responding to a survey have had any interest from staff in setting up employee led mutual arrangements and very few intend to encourage or push this route.
“Despite these figures which would depress the most committed ‘big society’ proponent The Cabinet Office are intent on flogging a dead horse are now issuing guidance and changes to legislation to take forward coops and mutuals to make it easier to set them up to run public services:
“This is now for the unions a ‘back to CCT’ moment. In the late 80’s and early 90s we made sure anyone who wanted to pick over the bones of public services were able to support the continuance of staff terms and conditions and we fought hard to enforce TUPE.

“We fought for continuation of staff pensions and made pensions a key negotiating point. We fought against the cowboy contractors by insisting that they had proper health and safety assessments, method statements, competency to do the work and financial security to run public services without going into bankruptcy.

“This latest missive from the Cabinet Office should remind us as a union to dust down the old CCT advice. It is no different now to then in many ways – if enthusiastic amateurs attempt to run local public services they should be held to account in the same way that we held private companies to account under CCT.

“Public services shouldn’t be put at risk nor public sector workers thrown onto the scrap heap because councils or other employers are seduced by the language of good intent spun by the self-interested third sector intent on privatising public services.”

So, I guess we should probably take that as a ‘No to mutuals’ then.

A webinar on legal, procurement and contractual issues around public sector staff mutuals

By David Bicknell

This Thursday, 20th October, Local Government is hosting a webinar on procurement and contracts issues arising out of the government’s encouragement of  the formation of staff mutuals by public sector employees to take over the running of services from their employers.

The course will cover the following:

•    Outline Government policy towards transfer to mutuals
•    Explain the provisions of the Community Right to Challenge under the Localism Bill
•    Outline issues which may arise under Public Contract Regulations
•    Consider  the ability of such a body to discharge a statutory function
•    Look at possible contractual issues  to be considered
•    Examine potential Governance issues which may arise

Employee-led public sector mutuals get Baxendale Awards opportunity

It was probably inevitable given the interest in public sector mutuals and social enterprises in recent months that there would be some awards that recognise employees’ efforts in creating a mutual.

The Philip Baxendale Awards for Excellence in Employee Ownership, co-sponsored by the Baxi Partnership and the Employee Ownership Association, will feature a category, the Public Sector ELMO Award, which celebrates “the most impressive group of employees to have spun out of the public sector into an Employee-Led Mutual Organisation (ELMO), and who are showing progress in transforming the service to improve outcomes for their users.”

The closing date for nominations is 19th September 2011. You can read more about the awards here

Employment plans for mutuals and social enterprises may face TUPE obligations hurdle

By David Bicknell

What are the employment implications of creating mutuals and social enterprises following the publication of the Open Public Services White Paper?

An article by Asheem Singh of Impetus Trust on the Guardian’s Social Enterprise Network carries these TUPE references which may raise some questions about employment obligations in setting up a mutual or social enterprise.

“We also once worked with an organisation called Speaking Up, who found the requirements of a piece of European legislation called the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) regulations (TUPE), which specifies that public sector staff contracts do not end because their employment structure changes, to be onerous.

“When Speaking Up had won a contract on the basis that they were an innovative, cost effective, nimble social enterprise, they found themselves obliged to take on staff previously from the public sector and both parties found the change in culture difficult. The point is that the change in management process is but one of many puzzles that emerge, as yet unaccounted for, hidden within the government’s plans.”