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Public Services Forum: Access to Skills, Trade Unions and Advice in Government Contracting

15 July 2008

This morning the Government in partnership with the CBI, Business Services Association (BSA), TUC, Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO) & National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) signed up to an agreement on access to skills, trade unions and advice in Government contracting.

This joint statement [PDF 238KB, 16 pages] was developed in partnership by Government, trade unions, business and the third sector and its aim is to improve the quality of services delivered under Government contracts [PDF 99KB, 6 pages] by raising the skills of employees working on these contracts.

For the UK to compete in the modern global economy, a world class skills base is needed. Government has set a challenging target to ensure almost all adults (95%) have basic literacy and numeracy skills by 2020. It is important for Government to lead by example in making progress on this agenda, and to provide a framework for others to do the same. This Joint Statement will give many of those who work on Government contracts the opportunity to develop their basic skills where needed. This will have benefits for those who use public services, the individual employee and for the employer.

The joint statement will help lower-skilled workers access valuable information regarding their working lives. This is particularly relevant for those employees who have little knowledge of their rights at work, or where to go for advice.

Tom Watson, Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chair of the Public Services Forum said:

“As Chair of the Public Services Forum I am pleased to present this new Joint Statement on Access to Skills, Trade Unions and Advice in Government Contracting developed by the PSF. It is by working in partnership like this that can we achieve real progress and deliver on the Government's skills agenda.”

John Denham, Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, said:

“This Joint Statement complements the Skills Pledge that all government departments have signed. It illustrates our commitment to lead the way on improving the skills in the public and private sector and to enable those who work for us, whether directly or indirectly, to progress in life and work.”

Susan Anderson, Director of Public Services, CBI, said:

“Good public services value those who work in them, with managers responsive to both the public and employees. That is why the CBI endorses these guidelines as a basis for ensuring the staff in public services, in all sectors, are valued and get the opportunity to develop. Public services have been changing over the last decade and as that process accelerates in the years ahead, we are confident staff will continue to be the number one asset of those who deliver them, whether from the private, public or voluntary sectors.”

BSA Chief Executive Mark Fox said:

“The Joint Statement represents a constructive agreement between relevant participants in key areas. It is welcome that we have all been able to set our hand to signing this document, which provides a good basis for continuing constructive relations.”

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said:

“Soon any people employed by contractors who win Government contracts will be able to access basic skills training at work, be able to find out how to join a union and learn more about the law and how it relates to their job. I look forward to the same opportunities being opened up to the staff of contractors working in local government and the NHS so that eventually all public services workers are covered by this agreement. The people who work so hard to provide our essential public services deserve these new provisions which will also help ensure they can continue to deliver high quality services to the public.”

Stephen Bubb, Chief Executive of ACEVO, said:

“Developing skills in the third sector workforce is a vital part of our increasing role in public services and I am very keen that the sector makes the most of the opportunities available through Train to Gain. So I am pleased to endorse the Statement.”

Ben Kernighan, Deputy Chief Executive, NCVO said:

“The voluntary and community sector has a talented and passionate workforce. Properly supported by opportunities to develop skills and receive appropriate representation our workforce can achieve great things. That's why I endorse these proposals.”

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