Last summer a new chief executive arrived at WSCC, Nathan Elvery. This change at the top has provided challenges to UNISON, not least as a new way of looking at the world and trade unions has come to West Sussex.
UNISON has long had a productive, partnership relationship with WSCC. The tone of this relationship is changing. UNISON is no longer viewed as a partner in the way it has been.
‘The Big Conversation’ intranet forum is being used as a direct line of communication between the senior leadership team and staff. UNISON of course welcomes a close dialogue between a leadership team and its staff. UNISON welcomes the involvement of staff in the development of ideas, to make our teams run more efficiently or to make WSCC a better place to work.
Where we have concerns is when new forums – like the online forum and the Culture Board – become utilised to discuss changes to terms and conditions.
UNISON is ‘recognised’ by WSCC for the purpose of collective bargaining and negotiation on behalf of WSCC staff. If alternative forums are started to initiate that dialogue and negotiation on terms and conditions, UNISON has concerns that the interests of staff may not always be protected as best they might be.
The new Culture Board’s membership is handpicked by senior management from staff who volunteer. UNISON has not been invited and will not be. Yet many staff have not even heard of the Culture Board or ‘The Big Conversation’, and some simply do not have time to engage in them due to pressure of workloads. So they cannot be representative of staff. The people who attend them will no doubt do their best, but they do not have the training or back-up from a large organisation like UNISON to ensure the best outcomes for all staff are achieved. This would not be a problem, except that the Culture Board is designed to be a sounding board on changes to terms and conditions and the HR policy framework you work within. On top of this, the chief executive plans a review of the ways UNISON is engaged in negotiations, with particular scrutiny of our informal involvement before proposals are firmed up.
UNISON thinks all staff should be wary of these developments. No doubt the next few years will be tough ones: perhaps tougher than ever before. But this does not mean the role of the trade union should be diluted in any way, and nor should your terms and conditions be used to fund the budget shortfall. We will keep you informed as matters develop.
Members should also be aware of important developments regarding staff travel and parking.