Multinational firm Capita plc won the contract to supply West Sussex County Council ‘back office’ functions for ten years from October 2012. Since then, the relationship with UNISON did not get off to an auspicious start. A number of consultations were started suddenly, some on redundancy, without warning and in UNISON’s view three of them were in danger of being handled unlawfully. In each of those instances, Capita rode back and improved its approach after UNISON representations. However, UNISON members had experienced better when employed by WSCC, had no confidence in the processes Capita was using, and were under significant additional stress because of them.
UNISON has now completed negotiation on a set of ‘best practice principles’ for Capita and UNISON to work to which should improve matters. The company has promised to abide by this good practice unless there is an over-riding business need which makes it impossible. The Branch is not unrealistic or unreasonable, and knows there can be times when such circumstances occur. But we will look for objective evidence when this happens. Disorganisation will not be reason enough.
In the last year we have seen Capita redundancies in Health & Safety (3), HR & Payroll (5) and I.T Support (16). It was particularly disappointing to see so many jobs go from I.T. Support, 8 of which were jobs Capita moved from West Sussex to Derby. This appears to make a mockery of the Council’s own commitment to support the local economy; exporting jobs does not help local people, families or businesses.
Recently the Branch concluded negotiations on the TUPE transfer of 7 staff from Capita to the new mutual, ‘West Sussex Music’. A ‘measure’ proposed was to move the staff to a new office in rural Petworth, a journey which the four UNISON members were unable to make. The employers’ first position was that there was no alternative for the staff but to move to Petworth. After UNISON support, pointing out the unlawfulness of this position, two UNISON members were redeployed to alternative posts in Capita, and two UNISON members who could not be redeployed received redundancy payments. The three non-members completed their move to Petworth.
The Branch has also been busy supporting disabled members who have not received the I.T. support they require to do their jobs in an acceptable timeframe. This support is called ‘Reasonable Adjustments’ in law. A grievance supported by UNISON has recently been upheld and our member received a full apology and a promise that processes would be improved.
In sum, it has been a tricky and challenging first year, but we hope for much better in the next 12 months. UNISON Reps Mervyn Sams, Ian Harvey, Abi Holdsworth, Jamie Thomas and Kim Unwin have done a great job supporting union members. If you would like to join UNISON’s team of ‘Capita Reps’, please get in touch with the Branch office on 01243 777636.