Staff are told they should expect better pay and a pension scheme, writes Graham Willgoss.
Better pay, pension schemes and health and safety are among the key demands listed in the Transport and General Workers' Union's charter of rights for voluntary sector staff.
The charter was unveiled at the TUC Congress in Brighton last week. "You cannot expect quality services from poorly paid, undervalued, insufficiently trained and demoralised workers," said Jennie Formby, national secretary for the administration, clerical, technical and supervisory (ACTS) section of the TGWU.
The ACTS section, which represents more than 25,000 voluntary sector staff throughout the country, called for an overhaul of employment and funding conditions at the launch of its Valuing the Voluntary Sector: Quality Conditions for Quality Services campaign.
"Employers support what we're doing," said Formby. "If you can reward staff better, the chances are that you will keep them for longer."
In her speech at a fringe meeting in the Brighton Centre, Formby outlined the importance of the campaign for staff now that local government was seeking to commission rather than deliver services.
"We are seeing the Government put more pressure on local authorities to involve the voluntary sector in delivering local services," she said.
"That means the public has a right to expect certain minimum standards of service and professionalism from those involved, and the local authorities have a right to expect accountability of the voluntary organisations," she added.
Formby also highlighted the dangers of short-term contracts. "Short-term funding means short-term contracts, which inevitably result in a high turnover of staff," she said. "This can prove to be expensive for the employer and offers little job security for the employee."
Ian Theodoreson, UK director of corporate resources at Barnardo's, said union recognition had smoothed employer-staff relations at the children's charity.
"From a staff perspective, it is crucial to have the dispassionate representation that can ensure you get a fair offer in consultations about working conditions," he said.
The TGWU plans to meet MPs, trade union leaders and employers in the coming weeks to formally approach the Government and raise the issues it hopes the voluntary sector campaign will bring to light.
- See Policy and Politics, page 16