IER response to the Social Partnership and Public Procurement (Wales) Bill

IER welomes the Social Partnership Bill and proposes recommendations to ensure its integrity.

The Institute of Employment Rights welcomes the publication of the draft Social Partnership and Public Procurement (Wales) Bill, which draws upon the recommendations of the IER’s Manifesto for Labour Law to set out legislation that would promote trade union engagement throughout the public sector. The legislation proposes:

  • the promotion of tripartite working between trade unions, government and employers at local, regional and national levels;
  • the establishment of a Social Partnership Council to provide leadership for this system; and
  • the reform of public procurement processes to ensure that public procurement is undertaken with consideration to social, economic, environmental and cultural wellbeing.

Responding to a public consultation on the Bill, IER Chair John Hendy QC, IER President Professor Keith Ewing and IER Director Carolyn Jones note that the definition of ‘fair work’ is left deliberately blank in the draft legislation so that respondees may propose their suggestions as to how this should be defined. IER’s recommendation is to align the definition of ‘fair work’ goals and duties with that already set out in the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 and two key International Labour Organisation (ILO) instruments that were recently included in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the UK and EU.

Further, the IER proposes that ‘social partnership’ be more explicitly defined in the legislation and should include ‘social dialogue’, which in turn should include ‘collective bargaining’ and particularly ‘sectoral collective bargaining’.

When it comes to rules around procurement, the IER suggests that bidders for public contracts should be required to commit to complying not just with statutory regulations and a living wage, but also to working with unions, following any relevant collective agreement and not undercutting the terms and conditions that are a norm for the sector or locality in which they are based. They also note that these same conditions can be placed on other government authorisations to companies, such as licences, waivers and loans.

In order to ensure the Bill has teeth, the IER suggests that the compliance of contractors should be monitored by an independent panel that reports to the Senedd and its Ministers.