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About the P&I Team Briefings Home | Responses | PFI Index | Policy Guide
Bargain Brief No. 29- August 2007
Topical news for activists and staff  
bargain brief is

...a publication from the Policy & Information Team. It aims to provide a concise and topical news service for activists and staff engaged in representing and bargaining on behalf of UNISON members in Scotland.

Recognising that not all activists have the access or time to read detailed information we hope this summary format will be helpful.

Further information on any of the news items below is available from the P&I Team and we welcome feedback on any aspect of this service.

Contacts list:

Kevin O'Neil

Dave Watson

Kenny MacLaren

Diane Anderson

Fiona Montgomery

P&I Team
14 West Campbell Street
Glasgow G2 6RX
Tel: 0845 355 0845
Fax: 0141 221 8953



- National Minimum Wage

- Transfer of Undertakings
- Whistleblowing: Worker's 'reasonable belief' need not be factually correct

Health & Safety

Equality at Work
- A framework for fairness
- Changes to sex discrimination legislation
- Paternity leave and pay is extended

- Staff caught short in ERI loo-roll drought

Click here for previous Bargain Briefs


Employment Rights

Transfer of Undertakings

In Power v Regent Security Services Ltd (20070 IRLR 226 EAT), a case brought prior to the 2006 TUPE Regulations coming into effect, the EAT holds that an employee could enforce a contractual variation agreed with the transferee, even though the transfer was the reason for the change. It was not open to the employee to seek resile from the change on the grounds that the variation was by reason of the transfer and therefore void. It is well established that an employee cannot waive his or her right to continue to be employed after a transfer on the same terms and conditions as applied before the transfer.

In the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006, which replaced the 1981 TUPE Regulations as of 6 April 2006, specific provision regarding this is made in reg.4 (4). This provides that any purported variation of a contract will be void if the reason for it is either the transfer itself or a reason connected with the transfer that is not an economic, technical or organisational reason entailing changes in the workforce.

Nothing in the 1981 TUPE Regulations prevented an employee from seeking to take the benefits of a contract as varied by agreement with the transferee. The employer could not defend a claim in relation to the contractual term by arguing that the term was void because the contract had been varied by a reason of the transfer.

Rights in relation to the variation of a contract in the context of a transfer are given to the employee but not the employer. An employer may not, therefore, resile from a voluntarily agreed variation even where it was made by reason of the transfer.

Whistleblowing: Worker's 'reasonable belief' need not be factually correct

A recent case at the Court of Appeal held that to qualify for protection from detriment or dismissal for whistle blowing, a worker must hold a "reasonable belief" that the information disclosed tends to show that a criminal offence will be committed or that there will be non-compliance with a legal obligation. However, provided that the worker's honest belief is reasonably held, protection will not be lost merely because he or she is mistaken about the existence of such a criminal offence or legal obligation.

The circumstances in which an employee may be protected from detriment or dismissal as a result of making a "protected disclosure" within the meaning of PART IVA of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA) are complex. Different requirements as to the nature of disclosure and the conduct of the employee apply depending on to whom the disclosure is being made. The basic definition of a qualify disclosure is given in s.43B, which states that it is a disclosure of information "which, in the reasonable belief of (the employee), tends to show one or more of the following". The follows a list of matters ranging from the commission of criminal offences or the breach of legal obligations, to damage the environment.



Health & Safety


Bargaining issues

National Minimum Wage

Gordon Brown is drawing up plans to vary the minimum wage region by region across Britain.

The Prime Minister is understood to have been persuaded by academic studies which have found that having a single minimum, currently £5.35 an hour, right across the UK, is uneconomic.

A senior Labour Party source said that a "regional minimum wage" was the "logical next step" after Mr Brown's announcement as chancellor four years ago that regional price indices would be published to show variations in inflation rates across the country.

In the past, Mr Brown has signalled his intention to move to a more flexible pay regime with more account taken of variations in prices across the country. In June 2006, he declared in his Mansion House speech: "Britain will have to become a more flexible economy more ready to change, with more local and regional pay flexibility, better equipped for the long term, with more focus on the jobs and skills of the future."

A recent report from The Economic Research argued that northerners should receive lower unemployment benefits and be paid a less generous minimum wage.

The council's study, which used a raft of official labour market and price data, said the minimum wage for Londoners should be boosted to £6.90 an hour. It also said the level in the north-east should be cut by 57p to £4.78 an hour, while workers in Yorkshire should get a minimum of £4.95, employees in Northern Ireland should be paid at least £4.80 and those in Wales more than £4.84. The report called for Britain to adopt a similar system to those operating in Switzerland and America, where local authorities are allowed to set benefits, the minimum wage, and the salaries of public sector workers.

The national minimum wage was introduced by Labour in 1999, with an original level of £3.60 an hour. Currently the legal minimum is £5.35 per hour for 22 year olds and above, £4.45 per hour for 18 to 21 year olds and £3.30 per hour for under 18s who have finished compulsory education. There is no legal minimum for those who have not yet finished compulsory education. More than 1.5 million workers have benefited from the introduction of the national minimum wage.


Workplace Issues



A framework for fairness

The UK Government are consulting on proposals for a single Equality Bill for Great Britain. The proposals have been developed as a result of the Discrimination Law Review, launched in February 2005 to consider the opportunities for creating a clearer and more streamlined discrimination legislative framework that produces better outcomes for those who currently experience disadvantage.

Changes to sex discrimination legislation

The Government has confirmed that changes to sex discrimination legislation, reflecting a High Court decision that amendments to the Equal Treatment Directive were not properly implemented, will be introduced 1 October 2007.

On 1 October 2005, the Employment Equality (Sex Discrimination) Regulations 2005 amended the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 to implement the amended Equal Treatment Directive, which prohibits both sex-based harassment and sexual harassment. The Regulations also amended the definition of indirect sex discrimination to make it clear that less favourable treatment on the grounds of pregnancy or maternity leave amounts to unlawful sex discrimination.

The High Court, in judicial review proceedings, agreed with the Equal Opportunities Commission that it is necessary to amend various aspects of the legislation, as they do not comply with the directive.

Paternity leave and pay is extended

The Government intends to allow fathers to benefit from up to 26 weeks' paid additional paternity leave if the mother of the child returns to work before the end of the maternity leave period to which she is entitled. The Work and Families Act 2006 will bring this provision into force.



Staff caught short in ERI loo-roll drought

The Evening News recently reported that staff at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary have been forced to hunt for toilet rolls after the contractors who supply the hospital ran short of stock.

Frustrated workers at the hospital complained of finding cubicle after cubicle with no toilet roll in them. The private company Haden which supplies the ERI blamed the problem on an unexpected surge in demand for toilet paper.

One UNISON member said that he challenged cleaners about the lack of loo roll, but was told that it was being prioritised for hospital wards.

Around 2000 staff work at the ERI, dealing with thousands of patients every year. Facilities management at the hospital is handled by the firm Haden, which is contracted to PFI operator Consort. James McCafferty, director of acute services and workforce with NHS Lothian commented: "Consort has assured us that this problem has been addressed and that our staff will no longer be inconvienced".





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