There is a substantial group of around 500 staff at WSCC not covered by national NJC bargaining arrangements. These are mostly managers, across HAY, Agenda for Change/Public Health, and SMG4 pay grades. WSCC currently only consults UNISON on the pay award – there is no process of collective bargaining. This lack of rigour led to painful and chaotic pay negotiations in 2018 and 2019. Offers made were completely unacceptable and UNISON, with members, successfully resisted them.
The branch then sought formal recognition on pay, so that we could collectively bargain in future and avoid repeat episodes. UNISON has much better relationships with the new chief executive and director of HR, Becky Shaw and Sue Evans respectively. They could see the sense in our request and recommended it to WSCC councillors. Unfortunately, WSCC councillors politicised the issue and refused to take the advice of their new chief executive. That episode, in July, did not bode well for councillors’ ability to steer WSCC out its current challenges.
UNISON does have access to a statutory process to force recognition for pay bargaining on WSCC. UNISON reluctantly took that route as the only one available to us, after councillors shut the door on a voluntary arrangement, though we did so with the full backing of our members in the pay groups. Completing that process is taking longer than expected however, as the Central Arbitration Committee which oversees these matters ponders how to resolve them.
The NJC pay award has now been settled, and so rather than delay implementation of a pay rise for members in local pay groups, UNISON has worked with the council and encouraged it to make a sensible offer that matches the NJC settlement of 2.75%. That is therefore the proposal of the council, and this is currently out for consultation using the existing process for settling pay. UNISON is now consulting with its affected members at time of going to press on this pay offer.
Affected UNISON members should look out for an email sent to them which includes a ballot on their pay offer.
We will keep you updated on progress with the statutory request for recognition. UNISON does want as many members as possible in this group of workers to strengthen our hand. Now is a good time to recruit your colleagues and doing so will help existing members ensure they get decent pay offers and are not left behind NJC workers or subject to performance strings.