Scottish Government Guidance on Fair Work Practices – Ridiculous and Political

Last week we saw the issue of a new set of guidance from the Scottish Government titled "Selection of Tenderers and Award of Contracts - Addressing Fair Work Practices, including the Living Wage, in Procurement".

Here is how the (very useful) Pinsent Masons Out-Law website quoted the government.

"The Scottish Government considers the payment of the Living Wage to be a significant indicator of an employer’s commitment to fair work practices and that payment of the Living Wage is one of the clearest ways that an employer can demonstrate that it takes a positive approach to its workforce… We expect contractors who deliver public contracts to adopt policies which demonstrate how they comply with relevant employment, equality and health and safety law, human rights standards and adhere to relevant collective agreements. We further expect contractors to have policies which describe how they adopt fair work practices for all workers engaged on delivering the public contract," it said.

Within the list of points that indicate a “fair work practice” is employers encouraging staff to join a trade union. not just allowing, but encouraging, you note. Why? That seems wrong, as there are plenty of good firms, even great firms, that don't do that. Why on earth should a unionised firm be a better supplier to the public sector? That is a pure political judgement with no basis in fact.

That's just one reason why, on careful reflection, we have decided that this is a truly ridiculous piece of guidance. There are other reasons: it is virtually unintelligible and unimplementable in practical terms for a start, but for more detailed analysis, see our Public Spend Matters Europe site here. It will do nothing except help larger firms that can afford to prepare meaningless, b****t, boilerplate, tender responses to bids. Or it will provide a smokescreen for corruption with firms getting high marks in this highly subjective area, in return for brown envelopes carefully distributed.

We've been reasonably positive up to now about much that Scottish government procurement has been doing, but this is a step too far into political posturing and away from core procurement principles and the need to show value for money for the taxpayer.

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