Asylum housing uncertain as Glasgow talks break down

Talks between Glasgow Council and an accommodation provider over housing hundreds of asylum seekers have broken down over pensions.

The UK Border Agency announced it would terminate Glasgow Council’s contract to accommodate 1,300 asylum seekers in November last year.

The contract was extended until 3 April this year to allow discussions between the local authority and provider Ypeople – formerly YMCA Glasgow – for the latter to take over the contract.

It was agreed 34 of the council’s 28 asylum seeker accommodation employees would transfer to Ypeople under transfer of undertakings rules should it take up the contract. But the council has since become unhappy that Ypeople wants to provide its own pensions for transferred employees.

The local authority wants those currently working on its asylum seeker accommodation contract to retain their pensions with the Strathclyde Pension Fund.

David Crawford, executive director of social care services at the council, issued a briefing on 3 March to the asylum working group – a cross party group of councillors formed following UKBA’s decision – saying the discussions on pension proposals were ‘a wholly unsatisfactory exchange’.

‘Our concerns centre around Ypeople’s reluctance to engage with Strathclyde Pension Fund,’ he wrote. ‘It is clear that TUPE applies in this situation and, given the current financial circumstances, the council has no option but to continue to pursue TUPE.’

The council has requested UKBA not to contact service users until the TUPE issue is resolved.

‘We have been clear that UKBA cannot write to service users stating that Glasgow Council has provided assurances that the transition to Ypeople will take place on 3 April 2011,’ Mr Crawford said in his briefing.

Ypeople was due to provide details of its pension proposals earlier this month, but has yet to do so.

Joe Connolly, chief executive of Ypeople, said: ‘We continue to work with UKBA and Glasgow Council on the transfer of the contract. Our primary concern, as always, is for the people most affected by this process, namely the service users. We would like to reassure them that we will deliver the transfer of this contract from the council and provide them with a quality service which fully meets their needs.’