The following has been taken from theage.com.au newspaper
Rein caught in British job-search contract storm
OPPOSITION Leader Kevin Rudd’s wife has snared contracts worth more than $198 million in the British privatisation of welfare-to-work programs for disabled people.
But her firm’s win has infuriated charities and unions, who say the contracts fail to guarantee union access or generous civil service entitlements for staff, according to The Guardian.
Ingeus, the $175 million global job placement firm owned by Therese Rein, insists it “openly facilitates union membership” and pays staff “well above the industry standard”.
But the British civil service union fears the firm will circumvent regulations that protect entitlements if staff are transferred to a new employer.
An Ingeus spokeswoman said the company’s British venture, WorkDirections UK, had been advised that those transmission-of-business regulations did not apply to this tender process. The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) regulations, or TUPE, guarantee portability of conditions such as index-linked pensions, sick pay and holidays.
“WorkDirections UK pays well above industry standard salaries and benefits for staff, including double matched pensions,” the firm said.
Ingeus also said it would offer interviews to existing staff of the previous program, New Deal for Disabled People, in regions where it had won four-year contracts. But it could not confirm whether any accrued staff benefits would be transferred or paid out by the British Government if those workers were hired.
As the dispute erupted, Ingeus also flagged plans to expand across Europe from its toeholds in France, Germany and Britain.
The overseas expansion follows Ms Rein’s decision to sell her Australian operations to avoid any conflict of interest with her husband’s job.
The multimillionaire announced the sale of subsidiary WorkDirections Australia in May amid revelations that the firm had inadvertently underpaid 107 staff. The underpayment was rectified voluntarily.
Two months later, the firm was stripped of almost 30 per cent of its Job Network offices after an audit questioned its performance.
The British Labour Government is moving to privatise job search services once supplied by its Jobcentre Plus agency. The replacement scheme, Pathways to Work, has outsourced the work to private firms and charities.
WorkDirections UK, a subsidiary of Ingeus, has won six of the first 15 contracts put to tender, with a further 16 yet to be awarded. It will take over services in London, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Nottinghamshire from December.
The firm was told it did not need to apply TUPE conditions. But rival bidders in the charity sector did factor in the cost of TUPE and are crying foul, blaming unclear advice from the Department for Work and Pensions.
Ingeus Europe chief executive William Smith, who ran the bid, said the charities that had missed out were “whingers”. “Frankly it’s their own fault,” he told The Guardian. “They should have bloody read the questions and answers documents.”
The chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, Stephen Bubb, said the tendering operation was a debacle.
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, said: “Not only has the voluntary sector been used as a Trojan horse by the private sector, the Government has handed a large chunk of work to a firm which is failing and mired in controversy in Australia.”