Across England, political leaders and other organisations have begun to develop and introduce employment charters. These look to set standards of what good work should look like in local areas or sectors, above the legal requirements.
TUC Education recently hosted a webinar exploring where employment charters are in place and what is in them, how trade unions have been involved, and how we can make sure they deliver improvements in workers’ lives.
Here is a summary of the top questions and answers from the webinar:
Many charters are linked to specific places, for example where Mayors have made manifesto commitments to develop and implement a charter. This democratic link is a real strength as it creates legitimacy and accountability. By getting involved, unions are cementing our places as important stakeholders in employment around the city.
Unison North West said:
“it was an easy decision. If there are going to be charters in the north west, then we want them to be good.”
Charters are closely aligned to workforce needs. Place-based charters (like the Greater Manchester Good Employment Charter or the London Mayor’s Good Work Standard) strongly reflect geographic nuances and what local people want from their employment, while sectoral charters (e.g. the UNISON Ethical Care Charter) are tailored to the experiences and priorities of a specific workforce.
Charters offer an opportunity to exert leverage on employers at various stages. Making sure they sign up in the first place is a way of securing a public commitment to improving working conditions. Then we need to make sure they change their practices to comply with charter standards.
Once employers sign up they are on the hook for those commitments. Reps can play a key role in making sure they deliver on those so that the workforce sees the benefits.
Reps can start by voicing their concerns to management – employers usually enjoy the good PR of being a charter-accredited organisation and don’t want to risk the embarrassment of losing that.
Some charters - like the Manchester Good Employment Charter - have a whistleblowing element. This means reps and others with concerns about an accredited employer can report them to the GMCA charter team. Recently, this has led to an employer having charter accreditation removed as they clearly no longer met the standards they signed up to.
There are also cases where charter compliance is a condition of obtaining public contracts, e.g. for social care providers in Southwark. These contracting authorities often rely on the frontline workers delivering these vital services to alert them when these employment standards are not being met.
The webinar took place on 20 September 2023, chaired by Anna Kalsi, TUC Education. We had a stellar speaker line-up who all shared their knowledge and first-hand experiences of charters including:
Participants included trade union reps and members looking to make the most of a charter already in place in their workplace or local area. Others were not yet covered but wanted to learn more about how charters could help their union campaigns and bargaining.
For more information or to discuss employment charters further contact Abigail Hunt, Policy officer public services on email@example.com
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