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Stop the exploiters

Wales leads way in beating bad practice
Barckley Sumner, Friday, March 10th, 2017


What with the budget shambles, the ongoing concerns over the future of the UK motor industry and the never ending Brexit saga, it was very easy to miss a very significant announcement this week by the Welsh government.

 

On Thursday (March 9) Mark Drakeford the cabinet secretary for finance and local government in the Welsh government unveiled a new Code of practice for ethical employment in supply chains in the Welsh public sector.

 

The title might be long but what’s in the document is very significant and builds on the work that the Welsh government has previously taken in stamping out blacklisting and outlawing umbrella companies on public sector contracts.

 

This document would not have come about and would not have the same weight without lobbying and pressure from Unite.

 

Every year the Welsh public sector spends roughly £6bn on goods, services and international supply chains and the code of practice is designed to apply to all the companies involved, no matter how far down the supply chain work they are.

 

In signing up to the code businesses and organisations will be expected to comply with its 12 commitments. Drakeford, said, “I expect all public sector bodies in Wales, Welsh businesses and suppliers to the Welsh public sector to sign up to this code”

 

Name and shame

If any part of the supply chain refuses to sign up to the code they should be named and shamed and ensured they cannot tender for future projects.

 

The areas covered by the code of practice are comprehensive. The first subject it covers is modern slavery. The code provides advice and guidance to enable staff to spot and deal with allegations. Over 50m people in the world are affected by modern slavery and that includes people in the UK and Wales.

 

While it is uncomfortable to admit, it is likely that at the bottom of public sector supply chains, especially those that have been repeatedly sub-contracted, some workers may well have experience of modern slavery.

 

The second area covered by the code is blacklisting. This builds on the guidance published by the Welsh government in September 2013 which sought to prevent local authorities using companies involved in blacklisting.

 

The code goes further as it covers the entire supply chain and sets out commitments to ensure suppliers are not using blacklists and explains how to avoid using companies who have not taken blacklisting seriously.

 

While modern slavery and blacklisting are evil activities which occur in the shadows the code deals with other employment issues that which are all too public and cause misery to hundreds of thousands of workers.

 

The code of practice specifically targets zero hours’ contracts, false self-employment and umbrella companies. The guide provides information on what are fair and unfair practices and includes a fair work practices questionnaire that companies will have to complete before tendering for work.

 

When it comes to umbrella companies the Welsh Labour government has an excellent record in acting earlier and more forcefully in trying to end this form of exploitation, than any other body.

 

Finally the other major area covered by the code is the Living Wage and contains a commitment that consideration should be included to pay all staff the Living Wage.

 

Not welcome in Wales

Unite has warmly welcomed the code of practice. Unite Welsh Secretary Andy Richards, said, “The new code of practice is ground breaking and shows that the Welsh government is entirely committed to stamping out illegal, unfair and exploitative working conditions throughout Welsh public sector contracts.

 

“The code of practice sends a clear and unmissable message to bad bosses who boost their profits by mistreating workers; you are not welcome in Wales.”

 

The litmus test for any of these initiatives is how strongly and closely they are monitored as while on paper employers may promise one thing in reality they could be doing something entirely different.

 

The Welsh government will conduct its own scrutiny procedures but Unite will assist. Andy Richards, added, “Unite will be monitoring and checking the code of practice is fully applied and will notify the Welsh government when we identify companies that are breaching the code.”

 

 

 

 

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