Council’s ethical employment policies ‘need urgent review’
BRIDGEND County Borough Council (BCBC) needs to “urgently review” its ethical employment policies, say councillors, who fear people working in the local authority’s supply chains could be at risk of modern slavery, human rights abuse and unethical employment practices.
BCBC has yet to sign up to the Welsh Government’s Code of Practice for ethical employment in supply chains which focuses on guaranteeing good employment practices.
The local authority says it doesn’t have the funding to audit it effectively and its current procurement policies take account of all the issues raised in the code anyway.
However at a recent scrutiny committee meeting, councillors said no cost analysis had been car- ried out of implementing the code and there was a risk to employees working in the supply chain in not having a policy.
Calling for an urgent review, councillor Martyn Jones said: “Part of the code refers to modern slavery, human rights abuse and unethical employment practice, and we’re told proactive assessment is not currently carried out.
“How can we be confident that within the supply chain employees are being treated fairly and with respect?
“I accept to some extent the financial implications to this but we have an opportunity here when we actually agree contracts to ensure that people are being treated fairly.”
Officers said that as the council had not adopted the code it wasn’t appropriate to “compel” contractors to adopt it, adding that various issues around ethical employment were covered in a pre-qualification questionnaire.
Monitoring officer Kelly Watson there were a number of local authorities that hadn’t signed up.
She said: “The procurement strategy is being worked on and that will have a section on ethical employment.
“The guidelines are already taken into consideration and where possible, within the resources, we are doing everything we can.
“What we are not currently doing is proactively monitoring the compliance, that’s down to resource.”
Cllr Jones said: “It is sad to say that we don’t proactively assess unethical employment practices, slavery issues and all the issues we see daily on the television news.
“The overriding response [from officers] we’ve had is cost but you can’t provide that argument if you haven’t done a cost analysis.
“We need to get policy and practice in place that protects, otherwise we may very well find that people are going to be mistreated, the reputation of this authority is going to be threatened and we may find ourselves having to find money from the public purse to remedy the misgoverns of what has happened previously.”
Councillors agreed to recommend to officers that a policy on ethical employment be adopted and a cost into implementing the code be researched.
The Welsh Government intends that all public sector organisations should sign up to the code, although there is no legal requirement to do so.
Cabinet member for finance Hywel Williams said the council was happy to sign up to the code provided there was funding from Welsh Government to support the council’s ability to audit tively.
The corporate overview and scrutiny committee meeting took place on November 6. it effec-
Bridgend County Borough Council