Procurement in the care sector a 'national disgrace' - Unison

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Dave Watson from Unison Scotland told the Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee procurement in the care sector was a "national disgrace" on 4 December 2013.

Mr Watson said:"Frankly, care is a national disgrace in the way we procure it and we really have to get a grip of that and procurement is the way that we do that."

The union organiser said he had spoken to care workers on zero-hours contracts who had told him they would be reluctant to raise incidents of care abuse or health and safety issues as they feared they would not be asked back to work again.

He was giving evidence on the Procurement Reform Bill which he said was too "timid".

The bill aims to improve the way the public sector buys goods, works and services.

Public sector bodies could be allowed to consider issues such as blacklisting and zero-hours contracts when awarding work to firms, according to planned reforms.

The move is among changes to public procurement rules being proposed by the Scottish government.

Mr Watson said "in broad terms the bill is fine, but our view is its too timid in general terms" and that it was a "risk averse approach to procurement" failing to look at the wider benefits that could be accrued by the process on issues like the living wage and tax avoidance.

Stephen Boyd from the Scottish Trade Union Consortium said the bill was "slightly disappointing" when judged against the original aspirations of the government.

Pat Rafferty from Unite said: "There's clearly a great opportunity in the Procurement Reform Bill for blacklisting by companies to be addressed".

Mr Rafferty is one of the petitioners on behalf of unite behind PE1481 calling for an end to blacklisting.

The Scottish government has published guidelines to stop the blacklisting of workers involved in public contracts.

The new rules mean companies bidding for work must disclose whether they have been involved in the illegal practice, and if so, they must show that "remedial action" has been taken.

In future, companies found to have breached laws against blacklisting could have their contracts terminated.

The guidelines are likely to be made statutory as part of the Procurement Reform Bill currently going through the Scottish Parliament.

Mike Emmott from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) said his organisation would soon be publishing a guide on pre-employment checks which would raise the issue of whether any form of blacklisting was ever acceptable.

Mr Emmott stressed that the CIPD's chief executive Peter Cheese had condemned the practice.

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