Wakefield Council has been criticised by the Freelancer and Contractor Services Association (FCSA) for succumbing to misleading propaganda from major trade unions concerning Umbrella Companies.

This week the council became the first local authority in the UK to sign a new “Minimum Standards Charter” for the construction industry. The charter requires all construction firms contributing to projects in which Wakefield Council is involved to adhere to a set of minimum standards to ensure that workers are granted the minimum employment conditions.

However, Wakefield’s charter has been heavily influenced by the UCATT, GMB and Unite unions and aims to eradicate industry practices such as self-employment schemes, Umbrella Companies and other forms of employment deemed by the unions to be unacceptable.

In a press release issued yesterday, the FCSA welcomed any moves to raise standards and end bad practices but described Wakefield Council’s attitude to Umbrella services as “disappointing.” The Council, the statement read, had been persuaded by the UCATT, Unite and GMB unions that Umbrella Companies exploit workers, promote bad employment practices and are inherently unethical.

UCATT in particular, the FCSA states, has been pedalling false propaganda about Umbrella firms for awhile and has painted an “unfair picture.” The union refuses to accept that, in reality, Umbrella Companies provide a valid means of employing contracting professionals to undertake temporary assignments for a range of end-clients.

The press release continued: “A surge of contractors were moved to umbrella employment following the 2014 Onshore Intermediaries legislation brought in by Government to tackle false self-employment. Umbrella employment provides a solution, however trade unions refuse to accept their validity because umbrellas are legally required to ensure that tax is paid correctly – both by the employee and the employer.

“FCSA acknowledges that there are instances of poor practice, however it is important that the balance is redressed so that the whole sector is not unfairly tarnished and targeted.”

FCSA wishes to open talks with UCATT to dispel some of the union’s misconceptions about the role of Umbrella Companies and has been asking to meet for some time.

The Association “works tirelessly,” the statement went on, to promote compliance, good practices and high standards, and it is disappointed that, so far, UCATT refuses to listen.

The statement concluded “There are many umbrella employers working to the highest ethical standards – like UCATT we are keen to drive out the cowboys in the business who are giving the whole industry a bad name.”

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