Work Programme staff transfers break employment law, says SCVO

Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations claims private contractors have tried to undermine the Tupe regulations

Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations
Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

The transfer of 14 staff from the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations to private contractors in Scotland under the Work Programme is "appalling practice" and has not complied with employment law, the Scottish umbrella body has claimed.

In a letter to the Department for Work and Pensions, Donna Mackinnon, director of employment services at the SCVO, said two private prime contractors, Ingeus Deloitte and Working Links, had agreed to take on SCVO staff under the Tupe regulations, which protect the rights of employees when they transfer from one organisation to another.

But since then, Mackinnon, said:

- Five staff in Inverness who were transferred to a Working Links subcontractor, Argyll and Bute Council, were told that they would have to take pay cuts if they wished to remain in work, including one of £6,600 a year.

- Two staff in Wick who were transferred to the same council were told they would be made redundant because the council was not delivering the programme in that area. Since then, another Ingeus subcontractor, Lifeskills, has set up in that area and will deliver the Work Programme. The SCVO maintains that the two staff should transfer to Lifeskills instead.

- Five staff in Moray, who were transferred to Lifeskills, this time acting as a Working Links contractor, were invited to what they thought was a briefing and told instead they would be interviewed for two jobs, despite not having a description of what those jobs involved.

"We have spoken repeatedly to Working Links to ask that they resolve the situation," Mackinnon said in her letter to the DWP. "They have promised to do this, but things have only got worse.

"None of this is within the spirit of good practice, either by the prime contractor or members of its supply chain.

"We believe the way our former staff have been treated has been totally unacceptable in what is clearly an attempt to undermine the protection that Tupe accords them. We also believe it is in breach of the contract that Working Links has with the DWP."

An Argyll and Bute Council spokeswoman said all contractual rights of former SCVO employees had been recognised and would continue to be.

"Argyll and Bute Council can confirm that no staff have received pay cuts as a result of the recent Tupe transfer and all have been issued with new contracts of employment based on their current terms and conditions," she said.

A Lifeskills spokesman said his organisation had only agreed to meet with the staff to see if it could help them continue in work and had no responsibility for their welfare.

A Working Links spokeswoman said: "While we cannot discuss individual cases, we have met our obligations in full with regards to Tupe and will continue to do so in consultation with our new colleagues who have been transferred."

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