The following article is relevant for UNISON members and non-members in the following local pay groups:
- Public Health/Agenda for Change (AfC).
UNISON last wrote to our members in these pay groups on 8 May 2019. We reported that the Chief Executive had agreed to a ballot of all staff in the local pay groups to determine if the council should enter into a voluntary recognition agreement with UNISON so that the annual pay award would be negotiated with UNISON, rather than there only being a commitment to consult.
This followed UNISON submitting a formal request for voluntary recognition on 21 September 2018. This request was submitted due to the handling of the 2018-19 pay claim, during which the Chief Executive offered:
- A 1% pay award;
- All future pay awards to be linked to performance assessment;
- The above only to be provided on acceptance of a variation of contract terms to derecognise UNISON.
This itself was an offer which UNISON had no knowledge of at the point of its release in August 2018. In May 2018 it was agreed in writing with UNISON by the Director of HR that the offer for 2018-19 would be 2%, and this subsequently changed as per the above.
Members rejected the offer. If you were not on local pay at the time, you might wish to review the consultation responses UNISON drafted with members’ input.
The outcome was that staff received a 2% uplift, without linking this to annual performance, and de-recognition of UNISON via individual variation of contract letters was dropped.
UNISON received a response to its formal request for voluntary recognition on the local pay offer on 15 October from the Director of HR. This proposed a period of dialogue with UNISON up to January 2019 on recognition and a number of other matters.
A letter from the Chief Executive to staff in November 2018 confirmed the intention to talk to staff about the potential for UNISON to be recognised to deal with the local pay award. At a meeting with UNISON on 17 April – just prior to the anticipated announcement on the council’s Ofsted inspection result – the mechanics for how UNISON would establish consent for recognition with the local pay group were agreed.
However, at a meeting with HR on 23 May UNISON was informed that the matter was ‘on hold’. No explanation was given, so the Branch Secretary wrote to the Chief Executive and received a reply on 24 May that UNISON was no longer acting in a spirit of “partnership, openness and transparency”.
The reply was not any more specific. UNISON waited until the next scheduled regular meeting with the Chief Executive on Monday 24 June. We were not advised at that meeting which actions had led the Chief Executive to conclude we were not acting in a spirit of partnership, but were advised to reflect on our newsletters. We have concluded ourselves that this must be a reference to the statements the branch has made to our members during the period subsequent to the Ofsted result being published. These are available on our website, and members are free to view them and decide for themselves if these statements are unfair or anything which you would not expect a trade union to say in such circumstances.
UNISON was informed in the meeting of Monday 24 June that the council was changing the approach to the local pay offer for 2019-20 and this would no longer include an approach to securing voluntary recognition. Whilst the meeting took place, an email was sent to staff with the local pay offer for 2019-20.
UNISON has not received the consultation document issued to staff, despite request.
Nor have we been provided with the data we require to accurately communicate with our members in the local pay group. We believe this group will now include a lot more UNISON members after the regrading of Children’s Services Practice Managers to HAY A. This is a change of approach on previous years of local pay consultation when staff lists were provided.
So, what next?
There is a period of consultation on the pay offer lasting until 12 July. The offer is for 2% across all pay grades in the local pay group. The offer matches the 2% awarded to NJC staff from April 2019.
UNISON is therefore consulting with our members to see what you think about this offer.
We are issuing a survey today for this purpose and would encourage all members and non-members to complete it. Please forward to members you know in the local pay group, and to non-members to encourage participation.
We are actively seeking the views of non-members because we are now considering pursuing the statutory route for recognition, after the council has not agreed to voluntary recognition. A body called the Central Arbitration Committee oversees applications from trade unions for recognition. It usually has to decide on contentious matters you may sometimes hear about in the press: such as recognition for Deliveroo workers. It is highly unusual for an established body like a county council to be referred to the Central Arbitration Committee, but this is the only option remaining for UNISON if we wish to have recognition for local pay bargaining for HAY, SMG4 and AfC/Public Health. UNISON does not believe we have acted unreasonably at any stage.
We do not have accurate data on the bargaining group as the employer will not provide us with it, but we believe we are at or very near to 50% density in the bargaining group as we were provided with the data in 2018.
We would like your views on whether UNISON should proceed to make an application to the Central Arbitration Committee. The pay survey will therefore also ask you about this.
UNISON’s view on the offer
We believe that the 2% offer without links to performance is a reasonable offer. Our recommendation is that you accept it, not least because it matches the NJC award made in 2019-20.
We want to hear your views on the offer.
Our commitment to you
There is no doubt that the past few years have seen a very tough negotiating environment for UNISON. It is often difficult to keep up with the changes of approach.
Our commitment to you is to keep an open dialogue with members so you are informed, and in turn can inform us how you wish to be represented in these difficult negotiations.
Thank you. Please now complete the survey and share it with colleagues. We will close the survey on Thursday 11 July.
If you have recently joined WSCC or moved into one of the pay groups affected, please contact the office to let us know so we can update your membership record.