A tragedy for the rights of workers across Britain – a legal view of TUPE changes

pr-richard-arthurBy Richard Arthur

The government’s changes to TUPE legislation are a cynical attack on workers and will make it easier for unscrupulous employers to drive down working conditions and make redundancies after a transfer.

New regulations amending the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) come into force today. TUPE, which implements the EU Acquired Rights Directive, is meant to provide safeguards for employees in the event of a transfer of a business or undertaking from one owner to another.

The main safeguards are the automatic transfer of employment and terms and conditions (but not pensions), some protection against dismissal and changes to terms and conditions, and requiring the employer to consult with employees and provide information about the transfer.

But the government’s changes to TUPE have considerably diluted these protections and represent a tragedy for the rights of hundreds of thousands of workers across Britain.

The main changes being introduced are:

▪               Allowing terms derived from collective agreements (those agreed between the employer and trade unions or worker representatives) to be re-negotiated just after one year provided the overall package is no less favourable;

▪               Removing entitlement to public sector collective terms negotiated in the future – especially future pay awards;

▪               Allowing employers to count pre-transfer collective redundancy consultation for the purpose of redundancies after the transfer; and

▪               Making it easier for employers to change terms and conditions, and dismiss employees in connection with a transfer (especially where there is a change of workplace).

In short, these changes will make it easier for unscrupulous employers to drive down working conditions and make redundancies after a transfer.

The changes will hit the low-paid and women hardest, and this is particularly the case for those working in the public sector, where there is considerable pressure to outsource services.

What is even more shocking is that this government had originally intended to go further in their campaign against workers’ rights. The provision to make it easier for employers to make dismissals before the transfer even takes place and another to restrict the circumstances in which a dismissal would be unfair were (fortunately) defeated.

Some of the worst excesses of the government’s changes to TUPE are yet to materialise but the end result is clear- a cynical attack on collectively bargained terms and conditions and incursions into collective redundancy consultations – a weakening of vital safeguards for vulnerable workers.

* Richard Arthur is Thompson Solicitors’ National Co-ordinator: Trade Union Law. 

This entry was posted in Campaign For Trade Union Freedom News, European Employment Rights, UK Employment Rights. Bookmark the permalink.

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