All not-for-profit sector organisations operating with the support of Manchester City Council will be required to follow ethical employment standards from this week, following a groundbreaking Unite agreement with the local authority.
The agreement, which was signed this Thursday (March 14), is the first of its kind in the UK – with more councils expected to sign up later this year.
It covers all members of staff, contractors and volunteers of voluntary, community and not-for-profit organisations who are commissioned, contracted or receiving grants from Manchester City Council.
Unite Manchester community and not-for-profit branch secretary Alison Treacher said the agreement is a “real step forward” for the thousands of charity staff in Manchester who are on the frontline of social care, mental health, housing and other key services.
“Many (voluntary sector staff) are on poverty wages, precarious contracts and work in appalling conditions. This agreement can help stop these abuses,” explained Treacher.
“Voluntary organisations which receive any form of support from Manchester city council and which don’t comply with its ethical employment policies and fail to mend their ways will rightly lose their funding.”
By being required to follow ethical employment practices all voluntary groups will have to ensure that their staff are at least paid the Manchester living wage (£8.75 an hour), have an employment contract and are not working excessive hours.
Unite expects that following further negotiations the council will add sleep-in shifts and travel time between appointments to the policy.
If employers do not respect the minimum standards outlined in the council’s ethical procurement policy, there are agreed procedures for the union to raise the alarm.
Evidence of non-compliance with the standards presented by Unite will be fast tracked for investigation by the council.
Cllr Carl Ollerhead, executive member for finance and human resources, said, “I am delighted that Manchester City Council is leading the way in ensuring that voluntary and charity staff will have their pay and conditions protected.
“I hope that other authorities will follow Manchester’s lead and sign up to similar agreements to provide protection to workers for voluntary organisations.”
Unite national officer for the not-for-profit sector Siobhan Endean said the agreement is “groundbreaking”.
“For too long pay, conditions and other employment rights have been a grey area when it comes to the voluntary sector and this agreement is the first step in bringing proper regulation to the sector,” Endean said.
“Unite is committed to ensure that this agreement is adopted by other councils throughout the UK, to further protect voluntary sector and charity workers.”
Unite is now in the process of lobbying other councils in the greater Manchester area to also adopt the charter, to further protect voluntary sector workers in the region.
The charter will then be rolled out across the UK later this year.