Summary of the Branch Meetings held 17th & 18th May 2007
Malcolm Campbell, the Branch Secretary, opened by explaining that the Purpose of the meetings was to update members on the single Status negotiations, seek their views and advise them as to what should happen next.
He pointed out that the revised deadline for negotiations was 31st May. This was fast approaching and it was unlikely that agreement would be reached by then. It was not clear what the council would do following the new deadline if agreement hadn’t been reached. However, they had stated that they were committed to trying to reach agreement Meetings were still scheduled beyond the cut off date.
It was thought that Pam Parkes may write to staff again asking them to accept if agreement couldn’t be reached. Members were advised not to accept the proposals unless there was a recommendation, to do so, from the Trade Unions, enclosed.
The Branch would endeavor to communicate quickly with members if no agreement was reached.
It was hoped that if agreement wasn’t reached that nothing would be imposed.
The object of the exercise was to bring all staff together on one set of grades and terms and conditions. This was all part of the “Green Book” agreement that came into being in April 1997.
This agreement gave a 10 year deadline, to 31st March 2007, for all Local Authorities to undertake the evaluation process and bring all staff onto equal conditions. This council first set up “Steering Groups” in 1998 to look into this. These steering groups fizzled out within a very short time. For the past 3 years the Trade Unions have frequently asked when Single Status discussions would be resumed.
Finally in the summer of 2006 the Council woke up!
Weekly single Status meetings were taking place and there were a number of issues being discussed:
Pam Parkes had written again to staff outlining the Council’s position. Malcolm outlined the major factors of the Single Status discussions.
The major issue was the Job Evaluation Process. A huge programme had been undertaken. The Evaluation panels had comprised one representative from HR and one from one of the three Trade Unions. There had been severe slippages in timescales but these had occurred in other Authorities too.
The jobs where it
was thought the most obvious equal pay challenges might come from had been done
first. These were mainly in Social
Services and the ex manual grades. Jobs
that had been evaluated under the Greater
Concerns were expressed over the lack of consistency of managers on completing the job evaluation questionnaires. Lots had been referred back from the panels where they were incorrect or incomplete.
Members who were experiencing problems with their managers were asked to let the Branch Office know, particularly if managers had not discussed the questionnaires with them.
The results of the evaluations were due out within a couple of weeks and those dissatisfied with the results had the right to appeal. It was expected that there would be a huge demand for appeals.
The appeals panels would also comprise of a Trade Union Rep and an HR rep along with the member of staff and their Trade Union representative.
A question was raise
because an HR presentation at Fairfield Halls had suggested all appeals would
be conducted in writing. M
Concerns were expressed about there being no right of appeal if there was no change. It was pointed out that if members felt there should have been a change, but there hasn’t been, the Unions would look at these cases and try to pursue if they felt there was grounds, particularly if this applied to a group of staff. It was also stated that if they were granted an appeal, it might be worth lodging a request for an evaluation once this exercise was over.
In response to a question members were assured that the outcome of any appeal would not have any adverse effect any other job.
Non members were likely to be affected but if they joined, now, before the results were known they would be entitled to representation too as they would already be members when their problem (i.e. the outcome of the evaluations were known) arose. If they wait till they get the results they would be considered a deathbed conversion and wouldn’t be entitled to representation at their appeals. It was pointed out that all members should spread the word.
Management were proposing that all staff upgraded would be put on the bottom of the new grade. The Trade Unions were not agreeing to that! Back pay for up to six years acknowledges they should have been on this grade up to six years ago but refuses to recognise that they would have progressed up the scale in that time. They were still arguing over this.
The Council still wanted to extend the working week. Their latest proposals were for 7.00 am till 7.00 pm Monday to Saturday.
The Trade Unions had stated emphatically that Saturday working was not negotiable. This was a stumbling block for the negotiations. They had advised the council Officers that if they dropped including Saturday as part of the working week, agreement might be reachable on other areas.
Trade unions had asked why the Council were digging their heels in over Saturdays particularly as they had accepted that the largest majority of workers that would be adversely affected by this were women and yet single status was supposed to be an exercise to ensure equality for all!
It was not yet known whether they would be willing to drop this. It was, however, blocking any progress on other issues.
Whilst the 7 till 7 proposal had been suggested by the Trade Unions it had not been a Unison suggestion. A Unison General Purposes Committee had rejected this proposal, however, as the present system dictated that premium payments were not payable until 11/2 hours outside of the current hours (i.e. 8.00 am till 6.30 pm), and the council were offering to pay the rates immediately. Therefore this may not actually constitute any great change and might be acceptable.
To soften the blow the Council had offered 5 years protection, for staff asked to work on Saturdays, below spinal column point 28 and those who were due to retire and three years protection for those above that point. New staff would be expected to work Saturdays as part of the working week. The Unions still felt this was still unsatisfactory as it created a two tier system which disadvantaged future members.
The Council had argued that the public expected services “24/7”. The Unions had rejected this claim but pointed out that if that was the case, anyone working unsocial hours would expect to be paid an enhancement to provide that service.
Members at the meeting said if the public want 24/7 services they should have to pay extra Council Tax for that. If they knew there was to be a charge they would probably realise they could live without it!
Premium Payments & Overtime
These payments were payable to staff working over and above the contractual 36 hours.
The proposals were to reduce premium payments and overtime from time + ½ and double time on Sundays and Bank Holidays to time + ⅓ and time + ¾ on Sundays and Bank Holidays.
situation didn’t take into account the whole of the
The Trade unions had said they needed to know how this would affect people and asked for figures of how many people on each spinal column point and the gender split.
Other allowances were being looked at too. As negotiations had been bogged down by discussions over the working week, this issue was yet to be looked at in detail. It was the main subject for discussion at the next scheduled meeting. There was general agreement that the criteria to market plussages need to be reviewed.
In response to a question a member who was in receipt of an allowance which had replaced overtime payments, it was pointed out that all allowances would be looked at. It was also pointed out that these were not consistent across boroughs.
The Council had
always had discretion to pay allowances or pay salaries inclusive of various
additional elements above spinal column point 28. They had tended to pay allowances. If they proposed changes to those above and
agreement couldn’t be reached there was always recourse to the Joint
Secretaries of the Greater
Equality Impact Assessment
This was a detailed analysis that the council were obliged to carry out on the effect their proposals would have on each spinal column point and the gender split of staff. It was important that the negotiations were subject to this. The Council officers had said that they had been checking that their proposals were fair and that they did not discriminate, but that they would not be undertaking the full assessment until they had a final proposal to put to staff.
It had been pointed out to them that there was no point in leaving it till then as the assessment could send them back to the drawing board again and the Trade Unions wouldn’t be able to make any recommendations until after they had seen the outcome Equality Impact Assessment.
The Unions had accepted the proposal of 6 years back pay. However there was disagreement on the fact that the council proposed putting staff on the bottom of the new scale point.
The Unions had rejected this as back pay was awarded as recognition of the fact that staff had been unpaid up to now. To put them on the bottom of the scale ignores the fact that in that time staff would have progressed up the scale.
Members questioned whether allowances that had been paid over the last six years would be deducted from the lump sum. It was thought that this was the case, but Malcolm said he would check.
Protection for staff downgraded by job Evaluation
The two sides were still arguing this point too. The Council were still only offering 1 year as, their legal advice was that to protect for any longer would perpetuate inequalities. The Trade Unions were still arguing that the inequalities would be eroded as the new grades caught up.
The Trade Union suggestion of a three year protection with a lump sum buyout of up to two additional years was still being considered.
The Council were saying there was a need to reduce overtime and premium payments to pay for the costs of the Job Evaluation scheme and the resultant up-gradings. This had first been suggested as far back as the first steering group meetings in 1998. When asked why they were so intent on taking away money from staff they said that they needed to recoup the losses created by Single Status.
It was pointed out that they were trying to take the money from the very people who most benefited from the allowances ie the lowest paid!
The Council knew
that this process was coming and had 10 years to prepare, but had put just £2m
aside for it. It had cost
The Council’s Presentations
The HR presentations had implied that the proposals were a done deal and concerns were expressed from members about possible imposed implementation. It was pointed out there was a requirement to ballot all staff which gave staff the opportunity to reject the proposals. Malcolm reiterated that if there had been no recommendation from the Unions then all staff should be urged to reject the proposals.
The larger the number of staff that refuse to accept the changes the stronger the staffs’ position was. Members were encouraged to respond to the most recent letter from Pam Parkes rejecting the proposals with specific reference to Saturday working. The draft letter was still on the website, it was a word document so could be downloaded and amended to suit members’ personal views.
It was pointed out that if a large majority were prepared to accept the changes, but certain groups were not, the Branch would look at where those members were and what the reasons for their objections. If there were specific reasons for the rejection it might be possible to negotiate something on their behalf.
Technically the Council could terminate anyone’s contract by giving 90 days notice, but they wouldn’t do that to all staff as they would need to recruit a whole new workforce. It would be much easier for them to reach agreement with the Trade Unions and have them recommend the changes.
In response to a question it was not expected that single status would alter any departmental flexi time agreements.
Working Time Directive
A comment was raised over what affect implementation of the working time directive would have on Single Status. It was pointed out that this was a separate issue that was likely to be part of negotiations with the Council at a later date.
Malcolm pointed out that the members and staff’s position would stronger if we all work together and stand firm to resist the proposed unacceptable changes.
Members were encouraged to respond to Pam Parkes letter, either by letter email or telephone. The more responses they get, rejecting the proposals the more they will have to listen to the Unions.
Members were reminded that a draft letter was available on the Branch Website which was in a word document so could be downloaded and modified to suit personal circumstances.
Non members were to be encouraged to submit letters too and were welcome to utilise the draft.
Non members should consider joining now, before the results were known so they are in membership before they need to call on the union for representation.