Workers in IT Services often face being transferred from one employer to another as customer contracts are lost and won. This process is covered by the EU "Acquired Rights Directive", which became UK law through the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employees) Regulations, commonly known as TUPE.
TUPE was meant to protect workers against having their terms and conditions worsened as a result of the change. It only ever provided partial protection, with major gaps (for example in relation to pension rights). There's a UNITE guide to the 2006 regulations here.
Now the government proposes to worsen the limited legal protection we have. The outcome of the government's "consultation" is here. Below is an extract from a union commentary on the proposed changes, which are expected to come into effect in January 2014.
The proposals, if implemented, will be very bad news for workers in many industries, but IT Services will be particularly badly hit. They would make it easier for employers to dismiss workers, short-circuit redundancy consultation, make it easier for employers to change terms and conditions, and open the door to more arguments about whether or not TUPE applies when services switch between suppliers.
It has always been the case that strong union organisation is a better protection for employee rights than just relying on the law. The changes will make this even more true. And of course even though the law will still ban some activities by rogue employers, other government changes mean workers not in a union who need to make a tribunal claim will face the prospect of either stumping up sizeable tribunal fees or seeing "no win no fee" solicitors taking a large chunk of their compensation.
This is a government of millionaires helping their mates get richer by slashing the rights of working people. This week I've been at a UNITE training course on TUPE where reps from different IT & Communications companies came together to learn how best to protect employees during and after TUPE transfers. It may be possible for union members to challenge the legality of some of the changes as cases come up, but the danger is that workers lose their jobs, terms and conditions while such challenges grind through the courts. Workers need to get better organised now to defend ourselves when TUPE rears its head.
Unite commentary on proposed changes to TUPE Regulations (5 September 2013)
· Permitting employers to seek to change terms and conditions derived from a collective agreement after 1 year.
· Weakening unfair dismissal rights
· Permitting consultation on possible redundancies before a transfer to count towards the transferees obligations to consult under section 188.
This proposal blatantly attacks trade unions’ ability to represent working people. It victimises individuals covered by collective agreement. This approach is not consistent with the Directive. It’s also unclear how they could make this change in EU law.
It’s not clear what this means. We suspect the government plans to say that if employers were able to vary terms and conditions if a transfer had not taken place they should be able to do so after a transfer. The TUC will investigate further to check whether this change will drive a coach and horses through the Regulations.
This will mean it will be easier for employers to sack staff after a transfer where work is undertaken in a different location.
These changes will weaken unfair dismissal rights
This is welcome, but is mainly a response by government to the business lobby.