Public and Commercial Services Union
Printable version E-mail this to a friend

Mandelson to outsource vulnerable worker helpline

PCS expressed its deep opposition today to Lord Mandelson's decision to outsource the delivery of a new helpline for vulnerable workers experiencing employment rights violations.

The move to outsource the new single enforcement hotline, which includes advice on the national minimum wage, comes despite opposition from the TUC, PCS and MPs.

The formation of a single hotline for vulnerable workers brings together helplines for the national minimum wage, health and safety, gangmasters, employment agencies and the agricultural minimum wage.

The unified helpline was a key recommendation of last year’s Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) Vulnerable Workers Enforcement Forum, which included the TUC, CBI and enforcement bodies. The forum did not recommend that the new hotline be outsourced.

Criticising the failure to fully consult on the outsourcing, the union called on BERR to fully explore in-house options.

The union went on to warn that outsourcing the new hotline could fail vulnerable workers, with providers lacking current staff’s expertise and links with enforcement bodies.

The largest of five helplines being brought together, is the national minimum wage helpline, which is currently run by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

Commenting, Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said: “The important work of the vulnerable workers enforcement forum risks being undermined by the outsourcing of a key helpline that will cover the minimum wage and employment rights.

"We have major concerns about the lack of full consultation on these plans and doubt whether contractors have the expertise to deliver the new unified helpline.

"There is a danger that providers will cut costs, resulting in the help and support for vulnerable workers being read from a script in some distant call centre.

"As the recession bites, vulnerable workers are most at risk of being exploited. Support, advice and enforcement cannot be done on the cheap and we urge Lord Mandelson to think again and keep the helpline in-house."

TUC general secretary, Brendan Barber, added: “I am deeply disappointed that yet again the Government is turning to the private sector to deliver a crucial public function.

"The most vulnerable workers need real support and advice and this helpline could have been effectively delivered by dedicated public servants."

Ashford Borough Council become UK's First Local Authority to Virtualise Voice: Latest Case Study