PCS warns Home Secretary of forthcoming legal challenge over EHRC staff transfer


PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka has written to home secretary Theresa May to highlight serious concerns over the privatisation of a government helpline and to advise her of a forthcoming legal challenge.

The letter concerns the transfer of helpline staff from Equality and Human Rights Commission offices in Birmingham, Cardiff and Glasgow to a new call centre in Stratford upon Avon run by private company Sitel.

Sitel has stated that it does not recognise trade unions for collective bargaining at any of its sites in the UK, but the union has pointed out it will be in breach of the law if it enforces this for EHRC staff who are due to be transferred to the company on 1 October. The company is also planning to dismiss more experienced advisors when it takes on the contract.

The union says the Home Office – responsible for the Government Equalities Office, which signed the contract with Sitel – has failed to properly consult staff about the move, and failed to follow both the legal regulations on transfers and an agreement on avoiding redundancies.

The letter, which also raises concerns about the EHRC’s international status recognised by the United Nations, states: “It is a matter of serious concern that the EHRC is shortly to transfer this country’s official national advice service on issues of equality and human rights to a company, Sitel, that through its policy of non recognition of trade unions denies its own staff a fundamental human right.”

The letter says the union’s lawyers will also be writing to the home secretary, adding that “we hope you will wish to re-examine the long-term effects of outsourcing the UK’s national equality and human rights helpline to such a provider, in such a fashion, and with such disregard for the dedicated public servants who currently provide the service”.

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