Monthly Archives: March 2015

Special Local Government Conference Report

by James Thompson Steward, Branch Assistant Secretary

As you will be aware, a decision was taken by UNISON last October to suspend industrial action over pay. Members were balloted over a set of proposals that amounted to a 2.2% pay increase over 2 years. Whilst our members in Kensington & Chelsea overwhelmingly voted to reject the proposals, the overall nationwide result was to accept.

Not only were branches like ours opposed to the pay proposals, we were unhappy about the way negotiations had been Conferencehandled and the lack of any consultation with branches and members before the decision to call-off strike action was taken. We also felt that information given to members regarding the proposals was confusing and did not include the pay figures for London until much later on in the process.

As a result we took a decision to work with other branches to call for a Special Local Government conference to discuss these issues and to try and ensure that members would be involved in key decisions of this nature in the future.

That conference took place in London on 24th march and three delegates from our branch (Sonya Howard, Albert Dornelly and Felicity Scott) attended.

The key outcomes of that Conference are as follows:

  • Any future decision to postpone strike action can only take place after consultation with branches.
  • All future negotiations with the employers over pay, terms and conditions must involve representatives democratically elected by the members.
  • All pay negotiations must be governed by the rules determined by our annual Local Government Conference – as this is a conference attended by ordinary members on behalf of their branches.

Finally – and perhaps most importantly – the Conference took a decision not to wait until 2016 for another pay rise and instead to lodge a pay claim for 2015/16 for the full-time equivalent Living Wage rate to be the minimum pay value of the NJC pay spine and for an equivalent flat rate pay increase to be applied to all other NJC pay scale points and NJC related salaries. This would effectively amount to more than £1/hour extra.

The key step forward following yesterday’s conference is that we will now be lodging a new pay claim during an election year rather than waiting twelve months and missing our best opportunity to ensure that local government workers are respected and fairly treated by whoever is elected in May.



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Having a Union Rep Can Boost Job Quality

by Grace LewisThis article first appeared in People Management, 13 March 2015

‘Collective voice’ linked to improved employee well-being

Having a union representative in the workplace can reduce employees’ stress levels, improve their work-life balance, and increase their well-being overall, according to academic research.

The paper, Union representation, collective voice and job quality: an analysis of a survey of union members in the UK finance sector, showed that respondents’ perceptions of job quality were more favourable in organisations where an onsite representative was present.

This is important for employers across all sectors, the report said, as higher job quality can lead to higher productivity, and fewer workers quitting their jobs.

More than 3,000 people, across 174 companies were surveyed for the report. A large proportion of the respondents (41 per cent) worked for large banks, while 13 per cent were from large insurance companies.

Union presence in the finance sector – defined as the proportion of employees whose workplace has a union present – stands at 43.3 per cent, relatively high compared to the general population.

In 2004, 24 per cent of workplaces had a recognised trade union, which fell to 21 per cent in 2011. This is a dramatic decrease from 1980 levels when 64 per cent workplaces recognised an independent union.

The joint project from Warwick Business School, Unite trade union, Royal Holloway, University of London and Cass Business School, is due to be published in the journal Economic and Industrial Democracy.

Professor Kim Hoque, of Warwick Business School, joint author of the report, said: “Having a union representative on site seems to help improve workers job quality; this could be an important finding for companies looking to improve productivity as well as conditions for workers.

“Job quality is not only important to the individual worker, but to the organisation or company as well. Job quality has been closely linked to job satisfaction, which in turn has been identified as an important element of higher productivity. It also leads to fewer workers leaving and lower absenteeism, both of which have an economic benefit to the organisation,” he added.

Although respondents’ perceptions of job content, work-life balance and job stress were more positive where union reps were present, the research found no evidence of an association between onsite representative presence and job security.

“This might be seen as unsurprising given that employer concessions to union demands for greater job security may lead to significant additional labour costs in the event of a downturn, hence employers may be particularly resistant to attempts to influence this,” Hoque said.

Hoque added that previous research had shown that a higher level of collective voice inside an organisation had led to higher levels of job quality, and as such, any future moves to weaken the rights of union representatives inside an organisation could be detrimental.

“By boosting job quality via voice effects, onsite union representatives are contributing indirectly towards a range of socio-economic outcomes including: higher overall individual well-being, higher job satisfaction, higher productivity, fewer workers quitting, lower absenteeism, smoother labour market transitions and higher labour market participation rates,” he said.

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Barnet UNISON Fights Outsourcing

UNISON, one of the UK’s largest trade unions, serving more than 1.3 million members, wrote to Barnet Council on 11 March 2015 notifying them of our intention to conduct a strike ballot of the Council workforce. This ballot is a direct response to the five commissioning projects agreed at the 3 March 2105 Full Council which would mean outsourcing of the majority of the workforce.

The Ballot opens 18th March and closes 8th April.

At the infamous Full Council meeting on 3 March 2015, the Conservative Administration voted through the decision toBarnet Banner jpeg explore other options for directly delivering council services. The services involved are as follows:

  • Libraries
  • Adults & Communities
  • Children’s Centres
  • Street Scene services
  • Education & Skills and School Meals

UNISON estimates that this will mean upwards of 80% of the workforce are likely to be working for a different employer. According to a recent Barnet Council committee report there are only 1,466 directly employed permanent staff.

It is important to note that the in-house service option for eleven out of twelve outsourcing projects have been rejected by Barnet Council over the last three years. UNISON has, over the last six years, tried to engage with Barnet Council over the future delivery of council services without success. In-house services, whilst previously being high performing and low cost, have meant nothing.

Barnet Council abandoned its role of directly delivering services when it adopted the mass outsourcing EasyCouncil One Barnet Programme back in November 2010.

We now have first-hand experience of what happens following outsourcing and even councillors of all parties are openly critical of some the services they are receiving from Capita.

The shocking Care Quality Commission (CQC) report on Your Choice Barnet is more evidence of what happens when terms & conditions are cut and are not taken seriously. It is clear from the report that service users were put at risk as a consequence of YCB’s attempts to deliver the seriously flawed One Barnet Business Case.

In committee meeting after committee meeting the public has had to listen to talk of difficult decisions, yet the real difficult decision would be to reject the austerity budget process and refuse to cut and outsource services. Elected members were elected to serve their communities and not impose policies that will see even greater inequalities.

Contrary to the spin that outsourcing protects frontline services and guarantees savings, what all the evidence clearly documents is that the taxpayer ultimately ends up paying the extra costs whilst service quality deteriorates.

Austerity is driving the outsourcing agenda not just in Barnet but across the UK and Europe. Whilst other councils are also considering mass outsourcing Barnet is racing ahead and appears to be in a race with Northampton & Bromley Councils which are also doing the same.

UNISON Branch Secretary John Burgess said:

“Barnet Council staff are an incredible, resourceful & understanding workforce, who have been subjected to unacceptable levels of change and stress. The adoption of the five commissioning outsourcing projects makes it very clear to all staff that the Council is not interested in retaining in-house services. This is an ideological assault on public services and our branch is drawing a line in the sand by declaring this ballot. Austerity politics is driving an anti-in-house services agenda which we reject and are asking our members to reject.”

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