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Law Society threatens legal action over fate of LCS complaints staff

10 December 2009

The Law Society has today threatened legal action over the fate of 370 Legal Complaints Service staff, currently employed in Leamington Spa and London.

Des Hudson, chief executive of the Law Society, accused the government of breaking an undertaking that the workers would be protected by TUPE when the LCS closes and its work is taken on by the Office for Legal Complaints next year.

In a further development, the union Unite said it was seeking a legal opinion on whether the TUPE regulations applied.

Hudson said he was “deeply concerned” at the decision by the OLC and justice minister Bridget Prentice.

“Despite intensive talks with the OLC and MoJ, the proposed process ignores the fact that TUPE may apply to the transfer and the minister’s undertaking that TUPE principles will apply to staff in the LCS and other similar bodies when it came to staffing the OLC.

“That undertaking was first made to the president of the Law Society in December 2005, repeated in the House of Commons during passage of the Legal Services Act and confirmed subsequently in response to a recent parliamentary question.”

Hudson called on the OLC not to start recruiting until the issue was resolved.

“We do not believe that the OLC’s proposed approach to staffing the new organisation is fair to existing complaints handling staff nor will it secure value for money for the professions that fund the OLC,” he said.

“To press ahead in this way in reckless disregard of the minister’s commitment is unacceptable.”

A spokeswoman for Unite said it was concerned that the OLC would “cherry pick” the staff it wanted.

“The fact that the government has decided that the TUPE arrangements don’t apply could condemn staff to either losing their jobs during this reorganisation or having their employment conditions and pensions severely eroded.”

Prentice said in a statement that around 350 jobs would be created when the OLC comes into operation next year and that LCS staff would get “first opportunity to apply for jobs”.

She added: “The Legal Services Act 2007 introduces a fresh approach to the regulation of legal services and, following the introduction into Parliament of an order to give the new Legal Services Board its regulatory powers as of 1 January 2010, represents a significant step forward in creating a better regulated legal services sector.”

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