A big thank you to all our members that attended the branch AGMs last week, including our quiz and curry night on Friday.
The aggregate meetings were quorate and a real success. If you weren’t able to make it or missed the AGM papers, take a look at the Annual Report of the Branch Committee below.
Members who attended an AGM in Worthing, Horsham or Chichester were issued with a raffle ticket for our fantastic prize draw which took place during the quiz on Friday evening. We are delighted to announce the 10 lucky winners, as follows:
- Viktoria Millis
- Carla Hardy
- Margaret guest
- Alison Paul
- Chris Barrett
- Tendai Holloway
- Paul Rogers
- Briony Stilliard
- Keith Manville
- Julie Bolton
Annual Report of the Branch Committee
Membership made a gain in 2018 of 108 members (+2.0%).
Full members: 5,440
Unemployed members: 14
Retired members: 636
Total members: 6,090
The chart below shows our membership levels over the past seven years. Over the whole period the branch has gained members (288, or +5.6%).
In the south east region as a whole during 2018, membership dropped by 0.3%. It has dropped in the south east region by around 20% over the same seven-year period.
This tells us that the West Sussex branch is doing well. We are pleased to have made a net gain in membership in 2018.
We held two bespoke recruitment weeks with events at major offices during 2018.
The more members we have, the more we can achieve for you. Please encourage non-members to join us.
Our website unisonwestsussex.org.uk continues to be a major driver for branch communications, receiving nearly 30,000 visits during 2018, up significantly from 22,000 in 2017. The branch has issued regular email communications to members, usually weekly.
The branch has continued to prioritise funding for three issues of our newsletter Branch Lines. Electronic copies are archived on our website. Branch Lines has helped us to recruit as we include a membership form within every issue and received 45 back to the office from this route in 2018. Branch Lines continues to help us to highlight, and thereby apply pressure and amend, poor employer practice.
We have 94 workplace reps and they continue to do a great job for the branch recruiting new members, distributing information, supporting members or signposting them to the branch office, and acting as a spokesperson within their workplace. This number is an increase on the 87 reps reported to the 2018 AGM.
26 new reps joined the branch in 2017, compared to 21 in 2017.
27 of our reps undertook training during 2018, across 9 different types of course ranging from employment law to disability discrimination.
The branch also arranged a bespoke sickness absence representation training course, only attended by West Sussex branch reps.
The branch was delighted in May when one of our brilliant reps, Marilyn Cox from Field Place Infants School in Worthing, was given an award by UNISON to mark regional recognition of her efforts for members. The award was presented by Angela Rayner MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Education, at a UNISON event in Crawley.
If you would like to get more involved in your trade union, talk to a branch officer or rep at an AGM or visit our website.
Branch officers also play an important role either through their stewardship of the Branch or by developing and utilising their expertise in particular areas. Thanks go to them for their hard work throughout 2018.
Collective work, negotiations and reorganisations
UNISON continues to work hard to support members during collective processes e.g. service restructures, and through its regular negotiations with employers. We have collected these statistics comprehensively for the first time in 2018. The figures below show the huge breadth of collective work undertaken for branch members last year.
|Total number of formal collective cases during 2018||153|
|JCC negotiations (ongoing)||17|
|Terms & conditions||22|
|Restructures – non-schools (often leading to redundancies)||54|
|School restructures (often leading to redundancies)||35|
Schools and academies
2018 was notable, again, for the large number of school restructures which took place. The branch continued to work with Save Our Schools West Sussex to highlight the impact the cuts are having. This included participation in a major march and protest in Worthing in May 2018, at which the branch secretary was asked to speak. The branch made a cash donation to the group in December 2018 to help facilitate their important work.
The branch also published its school survey results in February, highlighting the impact of cuts on our members working in schools and the children they educate. This was a follow-up survey to work done in 2017, and saw hundreds of our members take part.
The work the branch has done on school funding cuts, as well as the scale of the school cuts in West Sussex, has had an impact on our members. At time of writing the branch has the second highest turnout of any branch in a national consultative ballot of school support staff.
The branch also supported the Littlegreen parent campaigners who were determined to stop their beloved school from being forced down the academisation path. This campaign was ultimately not successful but once again brought much needed media coverage and a spotlight on the issue of forced academisation, which does nothing to improve children’s education and is increasingly seen by parents and the wider electorate as ideologically driven and wasteful.
Early in 2018 WSCC insourced more of its services back from Capita. This news featured on local BBC TV at the time, as it was a follow-up to the longstanding coverage which the media has given the troubled WSCC contract. The branch secretary was interviewed for the item to provide our members’ perspective.
In July WSCC took a decision to insource its pension admin service back from Capita as well. The branch has been supporting members through that process which began in 2018 but will conclude with a TUPE to Hampshire County Council during 2019.
WSCC HAY Pay rise and NJC/HAY incremental progression
Our relationship with our main employer, WSCC, entered a more difficult phase in 2018. This kicked off in February when the branch was given no notice of an intention to link NJC incremental progression to annual appraisal outcome from April 2018. The branch resisted this successfully, but the Chief Executive wrote to all staff anyway to announce his intention that the link would come into effect from April 2019 instead. This will mean that some staff will see incremental progression blocked in practice from April 2020. At time of writing UNISON has yet to see the Equality Impact Assessment for this change or the baseline data to show which staff from which equality groups (e.g. older workers, black workers, disabled workers, etc.) are at which spinal points so we can monitor the impact of the change. UNISON will be following this up and encourages members to get in touch with the branch if they feel they are unfairly blocked from receiving their increment.
The position for staff worsened in August 2018 when, without notice to UNISON, the council launched a consultation with its HAY, SMG4 and Agenda for Change staff (circa 450 staff) on its annual pay award. Remarkably, this sought to:
- Pay a 1% pay award (when 2% had been agreed to be the offer with UNISON in writing in May);
- Link future pay awards to appraisal score;
- Link incremental progression to appraisal score;
- Have staff sign letters of variation to their contract to derecognise UNISON.
The approach taken would likely have proved to be an unlawful inducement to derecognise a trade union, and so that element was withdrawn after we objected.
The whole episode has proved to be a historic low point for the council. Staff were so angry with the approach of their employer that the majority of them rejected the council’s offer. UNISON’s membership density rapidly increased. The eventual outcome – though this was not made clear at the conclusion of the consultation in November and was not confirmed until January 31st 2019 – was:
- Future pay awards will NOT be linked to appraisal score;
- The pay award was doubled from 1% to 2%;
- Incremental progression will be linked to appraisal score from 2020/21;
- Staff were not asked to derecognise UNISON, and in fact there will now be an engagement with HAY, SMG4 and AfC staff about voluntary recognition of UNISON after we lodged a formal request to be recognised for the pay award.
This episode showed the relevance of unions to fighting off an entirely unnecessary, provocative and negative attempt to undermine staff terms and conditions. The consequences of the approach to a key management group of staff may still be felt by the council for years to come as many have lost faith in their employer.
The branch held a number of meetings with members throughout the period and communicated many times to the group. The branch was informed by the views of members at all times and members knew what actions the branch was taking. Two detailed and lengthy consultation responses were prepared by the branch.
WSCC Staff Appeals Panel
The first attempt to undermine the Staff Appeals Panel came in the summer of 2016. UNISON fought this off by alerting councillors, who had not been consulted themselves. The proposals resurfaced again in July 2018, with a view to removing councillors from the appeals process. This followed the reinstatement of a firefighter by councillors – a decision with which the Chief Executive disagreed. The Staff Appeals Panel is an important mechanism for staff: during 2017, UNISON only appealed to the panel once but saw a member reinstated to their job as a result.
The final proposals agreed by the council were a half-way house which saw the chief executive join the panel in an advisory role to councillors. It is clear that the chief executive will use their influence to try to ‘protect the reputation’ of the council and advise councillors against reinstatement on those grounds if they believe them to apply. The branch waits to see the impact of this on the Staff Appeals Panel with interest. The branch has had two grievance appeals blocked from going to the Staff Appeals Panel (one during 2018; one at time of writing) which is an extremely unwelcome development and will give staff little reason to believe that principles of natural justice are paramount to their employer.
The branch was grateful to the Labour Group of councillors at the council who could see the dangers inherent in the proposals and spoke and voted against them at both the governance committee and full council where the changes were ultimately ratified. The Labour Group no longer has any faith in the impartiality of the Staff Appeals Panel, and the branch supports them in their decision to boycott it.
WSCC staff survey
The first staff survey in five years was undertaken and reported in 2018. This demonstrated significant levels of disengagement from the council. Only 44% of staff took part – which was 22% below the local government average for such surveys. The overall engagement score was 56% (7% below the local government average), and some individual question responses behind this figure should give the council pause to reflect on the approaches it is taking. For example, only 35% of staff felt that WSCC was an organisation where they could speak up and challenge safely. This is a very worrying statistic in an employer with so many staff working in critical adults’ and children’s social care roles.
WSCC Christmas Eve
What felt like increasingly rare good news was the decision to close the council on Christmas Eve because it fell on a Monday during 2018. This decision was taken after UNISON pushed for it, as a cost-saving and staff morale measure, at the Joint Consultative Committee regular meeting we have with the chief executive.
Individual casework and advice
The Branch dealt with 200 formal cases during 2018 where a rep or caseworker was assigned to represent a member in an individual case. Those cases break down thus:
- Disciplinary 63 (31.5%)
- Grievance 55 (27.5%)
- Sickness 72 (36%)
- Capability 10 (5%)
At time of writing there are 66 open cases the branch is managing.
Formal casework figures:
In addition to formal casework, in 2018 the Branch dealt with 595 requests for advice which were resolved over the phone and did not lead to formal cases.
Informal advice figures:
795 members, 14.6% of the Branch membership, required formal or informal individual advice and support during 2018.
The figures above exclude other non-casework ‘once and done’ enquiries (e.g. about membership or subscriptions), pieces of advice dispensed direct by branch officers and staff when members contact them directly, and all collective work undertaken on behalf of members. Many hundreds more members received support from the branch through collective re-organisations which are not recorded in the ‘individual support’ statistics, even though we are often helping to resolve very individual concerns.
The branch continues to receive regular positive feedback from our West Sussex members after both individual and collective support and we publish this in an anonymised form on our website’s what our members say about us page. This feedback is a continuing source of pride for branch officers and reps, as it demonstrates the positive impact our work has for our members.
Pay and pensions
The Branch has supported many local pay claims for members in 2018 in a number of employers where we are recognised for collective bargaining: in the Capita Contact Centre; Aspire; Grace Eyre Foundation; and so on.
The 2018-20 NJC pay award was agreed during 2018 and was implemented during the summer. This provided for significant pay rises for staff up to WSCC Grade 5 in Year 1 and up to the middle of Grade 8 in Year 2, with 2% awarded after those points on the scale for both years.
Local pay was re-linked for WSCC Accredited Mental Health Professionals to NJC pay uplifts in June 2018. This change of approach was agreed by branch members in a ballot because local pay awards never in practice deviated from NJC awards.
A Further Education pay claim was submitted in the summer of 2018 for the start of the 2018-19 academic year. National pay bargaining is under increasing duress in the FE sector. A national consultative ballot in 2018 has led to ‘college by college’ approaches to taking industrial action where conditions permit. We anticipate an industrial action ballot at GBMet College (formerly Northbrook College) this year.
Judith Taylor, branch pensions champion continues to do sterling work on the West Sussex Pensions Panel, representing the interests of all LGPS members (working, retired and deferred LGPS members) across over one hundred West Sussex employers admitted to the scheme. The Pensions Advisory Board which holds the Panel to account, now has three LGPS member reps and in 2018, two of these were new appointments. Congratulations go to UNISON members Tim Stretton and Rebecca Caney, who joined UNISON member Chris Scanes, on the Advisory Board.
The wider union
The branch continued to engage in the regional tier of our union and a number of branch officers were successfully elected to various regional committees. The branch also continued to exert influence on the union’s national agenda. The West Sussex branch drafted a motion on branch funding, which became Motion 129 and had a significant impact on national conference in 2018. We are expectant that finally in 2019 UNISON will take steps towards resolving this ongoing issue. Our work has seen the branch increase its profile within the national union as a result, and at the end of 2018 meetings were organised between the branch and the general secretary Dave Prentis to see if a way forward could be found. These meetings have led to positive plans for national conference 2019 which the branch expects to be able to support.
On behalf of the branch committee