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07 July 2005 | Rebecca Ellinor
Equal opportunities, skills training and compliance with International Labour Organisation regulations could be pursued through new EU procurement directives, according to the Trades Union Congress (TUC).
New laws governing public-sector and utilities procurement have already been adopted in Europe, and the UK government must implement them by the end of next January.
The TUC urged public-sector bodies to use the new directives to tackle social and environmental problems, because they enable buyers to consider these issues when awarding some contracts.
Tim Page, the TUC's senior policy officer, said: "Using the policy intelligently could increase the quality of the goods and services provided and the conditions of those producing them."
Page was speaking to SM after the release of draft regulations by the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) last month on how it proposes to implement the regulations in the UK.
They combine a number of former directives and are designed to simplify procedures, clarify existing rules and bring them in line with modern practices, such as e-procurement.
However, for the first time they expressly allow purchasers to set environmental and social criteria in tenders where relevant.
Page claimed that during earlier consultations the OGC had been too narrow in its view of what the directives could do.
"We could use these rules to consider how we integrate long-term job seekers, help people with disabilities into employment and explore more options for job training at work," he said.
However, the OGC said the draft regulations do refer to the chance to specify such objectives and said it had already published guidance on including environmental criteria.
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