Agenda Item No.
JOINT CONSULTATIVE FORUM
Minutes of a meeting held on 4th July, 2011.
Present: Councillor Mrs. J.E. Charles (Chairman); Councillors Mrs. M.E.J. Birch, Ms. V.L. Ellis, A.D. Hampton, Mrs. M. Randall, R.L. Traherne and M.R. Wilson.
Representatives of the Trade Unions: Mr. P. Carter, Mr. J. Davies, Mr. N. Hart and Mr. G. Moseley (UNISON); Mr. G. Beaudette (NUT); Mr. T. Cox (NASUWT); Mr. G. Lewis (GMB); Mr. N. Patterson (Unite); and Mr. P. Whitcombe (ASCL).
The Chairman opened the meeting at 10.15 a.m., apologising for the late start. Mr. Carter requested that the Unions’ displeasure at being kept waiting in the corridor be recorded in the minutes. The Chairman then asked if there were any objections to Ms. B. Price, Training Officer, observing the meeting; there were no objections.
(a) Apology for Absence -
This was received from Mr. N. Stokes (GMB).
(b) Minutes and Matters Arising -
The following matters were referred to under “Matters Arising”:
· Facility Time - Mr. Cox drew attention to the fact that the Director of Learning and Development’s report in relation to the foregoing concerning which NASUWT was to be requested to contribute, had not yet been submitted to Cabinet. Mr. Carter amended the reference in respect of facility time for UNISON by stating that there had been interim agreement only.
· Discrimination - Mr. Carter indicated that the issue of discrimination would be considered later in the meeting.
· Health Fairs - the Chairman drew attention to an inaccuracy in the minute relating to Health Fairs indicating that the first sentence should commence as follows “The Corporate Health and Safety Officer notified the JCF that the Health Fair in the Alps Depot had been held on 25th October, 2010 …”. The Head of Human Resources confirmed that, in respect of further publicity being given to the Council’s flu injections campaign, it had now been incorporated into the Corporate Induction Programme.
· Redeployment / Redundancy Pack – the Head of Human Resources confirmed that the pack had recently been submitted to the Change Forum.
· Pay rates for employees in work on the date of the Royal Wedding – Mr. Carter clarified the minute by stating that he had referred to the above on behalf of the GMB.
AGREED - T H A T the minutes as amended above be approved as a correct record and the matters arising referred to above either actioned as indicated or noted.
(c) Directorate Consultative Groups -
(i) Lifelong Learning
In addition to the minutes of the meeting held on 10th February, 2011 (contained within the papers circulated) Members were informed that a further meeting had been held on 12th April. Mr. Cox referred to the fact that back in February a significant number of items had not been discussed, that the minutes were incomplete in that those items had not been listed and that there was no discussion of those items at the April meeting despite their being in the agenda. He indicated that the omission of discussion of items placed at the end of agendas for the Directorate Consultative Group was a recurring theme and expressed the hope that the outstanding matters would be discussed at the forthcoming meeting of the same given that certain of those issues had been raised 6 months ago. The Chairman undertook to look into the matters raised by Mr. Cox. Mr. Carter expressed the view that this was indicative of the practice whereby issues raised by the Trade Unions were sidelined in favour of matters which the Council considered to be important and that unfinished business from a previous meeting should be placed near the top of the agenda for the next meeting in order to ensure that it was considered.
(ii) Social Services
The minutes of the meetings held on 1st November, 2010, 10th January, 2011, 14th March, 2011 and 18th April, 2011 were submitted for consideration. The Head of Business Management and Innovation confirmed that meetings were held regularly and that she was not aware of any outstanding issues. Mr. Carter expressed appreciation at being kept informed on the progress of joint working with Health.
Councillor Wilson drew attention to the delay in reporting Consultative Group minutes to the JCF, requesting that the minutes of the last meeting relating to Lifelong Learning be circulated to Members immediately. Councillor Birch also expressed the view that delay in the consideration of items should be avoided and that minutes should be reported to the JCF in a timely fashion.
(d) Minutes of the Corporate Health and Safety Committee -
The minutes of the meetings held on 13th December, 2010 and 6th June, 2011 were submitted. Mr. Carter sought clarification as to the reference to violence and aggression under item no. 3 of the December meeting. In response to questions regarding the meeting in June, the Corporate Health and Safety Officer
· confirmed that she and the Principal Civil Protection Officer were discussing the provision of training for supervisors in relation to chemical fatalities, and
· agreed to raise the lack of detail in the minutes relating to feedback in respect of the Directorate of Lifelong Learning meeting and to ascertain progress regarding the schools wellbeing survey.
Reference was made later in the meeting to comments attributed to Mr. Stokes at that meeting relating to a feeling that double standards might be at play as to how unions and managers were dealt with if agreements were breached (see (e) below).
(e) Corporate Occupational Health and Safety Update - Joint Working with the Welsh Local Government Association -
The report contained details in relation to both the Domestic Abuse in the Workplace Policy and the WLGA Manual Handling Passport Scheme. The Chairman drew attention to the fact that this Council was at the forefront in the development of the Domestic Abuse Policy and offered congratulations to all involved. The next stage was for a policy to be drafted and to develop any necessary training to ensure its effectiveness.
The Manual Handling Co-ordinator took the JCF through the Passport Scheme. In response to Councillor Ellis’s request for some statistical data, she indicated that absence levels had fallen, that claims against the Council were very low and that, overall, the situation had much improved. Councillor Ellis then requested that the JCF be made be aware of year on year data in order to assess trends. Mr. Carter expressed concerns in relation to the level of training afforded to agency staff and to the implications that any lack of training could have on Council employees, i.e. that the health and safety of Council staff could be jeopardised by having to work alongside agency staff who were inadequately trained. The Manual Handling Co-ordinator indicated that Acorn (the recruitment agency used by the Council) was aware of the requirements of the Council and delivered the necessary training. Mr. Carter then raised the matter of the need for protective clothing to be issued to some agency staff, the point being made that if agency staff were unaware of the need for protective clothing, were they in fact receiving the same level of training as Council employees. In response to a question, he confirmed that, whilst those issues had been brought up at Directorate level, they had yet to be resolved. As a consequence, Mr. Carter was asked to continue to seek resolution of those issues at Directorate level and through meetings of the Health and Safety Group. Following further discussion on the above and related matters, including a point from Councillor Wilson that safeguarding training was required throughout the Council and that efforts should made to expedite the same, Mr. Carter referred to the feeling of double standards as outlined in ( ) above in relation to managers not addressing the issues identified by the Trade Unions. Mr. Hart confirmed that matters pertaining to the training of agency staff, or the lack of it, had been previously raised.
(f) Job Evaluation Update -
The Head of Human Resources notified the JCF that meetings were continuing with the Trade Unions to work towards the achievement of a collective agreement. Efforts were being made to ascertain whether there was any scope to refine the package whilst keeping within the same financial restraints. An Action Plan was being followed and he was hopeful that the negotiations would be concluded in the near future. Mr. Davis referred to the rumour and disinformation amongst staff and requested that staff be kept informed of the ongoing position, suggesting that some form of regular update would be useful. The Head of Human Resources indicated that a further newsletter would be issued within a few weeks.
Mr. Carter then expressed various concerns relating to the job evaluation process. These included the fact that staff had been evaluated on out-of-date job descriptions and contracts - and were still working to contracts which bore no relation to their current duties, that staff were unable to access the detail of the score awarded, that in some cases the statutory roles of staff had not been recognised and that no mention had been made of the funding set aside for appeals. Whilst the Chairman reminded the JCF that the Head of Human Resources was currently in negotiations with the Trade Unions, Mr. Carter drew attention to the fact that those negotiations were confidential. The Head of Human Resources confirmed that the negotiating Group comprised himself, his Director and Operational Manager, the 3 Regional Trade Union representatives together with the following local representatives: Mr. Lewis, Mr. Moseley and Mr. Patterson. Mr. Moseley indicated that matters pertaining to the access by staff to the details of their score was one of the matters under negotiation and that he and his colleagues felt a level of frustration at their inability to share information.
In response to the concerns expressed by Councillor Wilson in relation to consultation, Members were reminded that 59 roadshows had been held at various venues to facilitate attendance by staff Council-wide (whether Trade Union members or not) and that numerous training sessions had been held, including training for Members. The Head of Human Resources accepted the points made that staff might well not be aware of the current position and undertook to take those points on board. Councillor Ellis indicated that she felt that all Members had the opportunity of full briefing on the Job Evaluation process. Councillor Birch referred again to the issue of confidentiality, suggesting that the dissemination of information through Trade Union representatives could prove helpful in that respect. Mr. Moseley indicated that Staffnet was considered a useful medium to transmit information, asking whether the Trade Unions could in fact put forward their opinion on Staffnet as opposed to just contributing to the joint communiqués which was the way in which progress on job evaluation was being publicised to date. The Chairman’s proposal that the use of Staffnet for the dissemination of the Trade Union viewpoint be discussed outside of the JCF was accepted. The Head of Human Resources agreed that he would take the matter to the meeting of the Job Evaluation / Single Status Forum scheduled for the day following the JCF together with Mr. Carter’s request that he and the Branch Secretaries of the GMB and UNITE be invited to attend future meetings. Mr. Moseley indicated, in response to the suggestion that these matters be referred for consideration to the Regional Officers, that he believed the issues had already been discussed at that level.
(g) Workforce Planning Update -
The Head of Human Resources introduced the report which set out the processes to be adopted. Workforce planning had already been incorporated into the service planning process over 3 years and was linked to the medium term financial plan. He explained that the Plan would look at cross cutting issues such as demographics, agile / mobile working, change management and the engagement of staff in those processes.
Mr. Cox made the point that, despite having asked for workforce planning in schools given that the vast majority of staff within schools were Council employees, nothing had been forthcoming in that respect. Mr. Cox continued by referring to changes within the Education Service which should be in place by September 2012. The Head of Human Resources indicated that the issues referred to would be picked up the Service. In response to the comments in relation to the finalisation of the Plan, he confirmed that the Plan would be submitted to the Corporate Management Team, Scrutiny Committee, this Forum and thence Cabinet with the aim of the Plan being accepted in the Autumn.
(h) Update from Change Forum Meeting -
The Head of Human Resources drew attention to the recently established Change Forum which was meeting on a minimum of a monthly basis to help improve the effectiveness of consultation with Trade Unions on change management. Over recent months the Forum had made progress in relation to a number of issues including the progression of issues covered under the Welsh Local Government’s “Memorandum of Understanding” and the redevelopment of a redeployment pack / resources for those employees who might be at risk of redundancy. In response to a request from Mr. Carter for sight of the redeployment pack, the Head of Human Resources indicated that it had already been forwarded to him.
(i) Workforce Cost Reduction Measures - Welsh Local Government - Memorandum of Understanding -
All 22 Welsh Local Authorities had recently agreed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to help progress potential workforce reduction measures in the face of ongoing budget pressures. A copy of the
MOU was appended to the report. The Head of Human Resources had indicated in the report that the MOU was intended as an enabling framework to help “sanction” discussions within Authorities on a number of common issues, including the use of external advertising, use of agency workers, voluntary reductions on working hours and the increasing pursuit of working flexibility and the definition of contracts and roles. He further indicated that he had produced a paper as to how this Council could respond to the foregoing issues and that he had forwarded that paper to the Trade Unions for comments. Mr. Davies sought clarification as to whether the Council had signed up to the original MOU, as had the Unions, or whether the Council had signed up to the version as amended by the Head of Human Resources. The Head of Human Resources stated that his paper responded to the issues raised and that regular updates on the MOU would be made at future meetings.
(j) Feedback on Policy Development -
The report highlighted those policies which had been approved and implemented, those where further issues remained to be clarified prior to proceeding, those where consultation had been completed and those referred to the Terms and Conditions Group. Mr. Cox indicated that, in respect of the Career Break Scheme (which had been approved and implemented), there had been no consultation with the Teacher Trade Unions and that the Scheme had been imposed upon them. The Operational Manager (Human Resources) indicated that the Scheme had in fact been discussed at length with non-teaching Unions given that it had been imperative to introduce the Scheme because of changes in pension regulations. Mr. Cox then indicated that he was unable to attend the meetings at which these policies were discussed and was therefore not consulted.
(k) Proposed Timetable of Meetings 2011/12 -
The following dates were proposed for meetings for the remainder of 2011/12, each date being a Monday with the meetings to commence at 10.00 a.m.:
10th October, 2011
20th February, 2012
30th April, 2012.
No objections were received to the first date proposed. Mr. Cox drew attention to the fact that 20th April was the first day following half term and that 30th April was the second week after Easter, indicating that there could be difficulties in the submission and receipt of paper work. Councillor Wilson indicated also that 30th April was close to the Local Government elections. It was agreed that the latter two dates be revisited.
(l) Trade Union Items -
Mr. Carter opened discussion on the above matter by reiterating concerns in relation to consultation with certain managers. He quoted as an example the fact that further information had been requested on the various issues published in the Core Brief given that he had been made aware of only one of those issues prior to publication. He referred to the disappointment felt by Unions given that training had been undertaken and that the Chief Executive had previously sent out two reminders in respect of the need for proper consultation. Mr. Davis indicated that he had been involved in a very constructive meeting in relation to collaborative working with Bridgend. He indicated that he had been informed that the Trade Unions would be regularly updated and that a corporate protocol would be drawn up to deal with staff involved in those arrangements.
The Head of Human Resources stressed the importance of the Change Forum and that this was the appropriate venue to raise concerns about consultation. He indicated that it was disappointing that Mr. Carter had not raised them in this Forum. Mr. Carter undertook to put future concerns in writing. Mr. Patterson concluded the discussion by indicating that the issue around consultation lay only with certain managers, stating that training would have little effect on such managers and that what was required was that they needed to be reminded more forcibly of their obligations.
(b) Facilities Time - Discrimination Against UNISON Representatives
Mr. Carter indicated that UNISON was the only Trade Union where representatives had to request leave to represent members in advance. He referred to representatives having been denied time off, for example, for conferences and to one representative being refused time off for training during July and August. He further indicated that the three days allotted him to undertake his duties as Secretary of Unison was taken up with corporate meetings which meant that he was unable to represent members at lower levels. Mr. Patterson confirmed that he and Mr. Stokes (Secretaries of UNITE and GMB respectively) had discussed facility time with the Head of Human Resources but that he had subsequently asked for a further meeting with the Head of Human Resources with all three Secretaries present to clarify the proposals for each. The Head of Human Resources referred to an interim arrangement made some 18 months ago whereby the UNISON Secretary would be allotted three days a week and arrangements made in respect of local representatives. He added that he was seeking to extend the principles of the facilities agreement to local representatives of UNITE and GMB and had already had preliminary discussions with the Secretaries of those Unions to explore this. He had not however offered three days facility time to those Union Secretaries because of the lower levels of membership.
Discussion ensued on the requirement that five days notice be given for leave to attend on UNISON business, a suggestions being made that the requirement in fact discriminated against UNISON which represented the vast number of Council’s workforce, and was not practicable given there were often situations which required expeditious actions to be taken. What was clear was that there was a requirement to be flexible and reasonable. Mr. Davis drew attention to the issue of certain managers being unwilling to release Union representatives for no good reason which needed to be addressed.
Following further discussion on the above matter, Mr. Patterson’s suggestion that the three Secretaries meet with the Head of Human Resources to formulate a more permanent agreement in relation to facilities time be accepted.
(m) Schools’ Trade Unions -
(a) Schools’ Management of Attendance Policy
Mr. Cox referred to the above as being yet another example of a corporate policy being introduced into which the Teacher Unions had no input. The paper before Members contained a statement regarding the main objections to the Sickness Absence Management Policy as agreed by NASUWT, NUT, ASCL and UNISON. Given that schools’ absence levels were better than the rest of the Council Mr. Cox questioned the need for the Policy, indicating that there were better ways to deal with sickness absence and that the Policy was in fact nonsensical since it did not deal with the issues. The Director of Learning and Development indicated that the Policy had in fact been subject to extensive consultations and that there had been some amendments to reflect the views of Teaching Unions from the Policy as applied to non- teaching staff. He further confirmed that Headteachers felt it would assist in the process of managing sickness. The Chairman confirmed that the Policy in fact highlighted the causes of sickness and had assisted the Council in helping staff back into the work place. Mr. Cox continued by referring to the existing processes and rules which allowed the necessary information in relation to absence to be tracked and the particular problem with the Schools’ Management of Attendance Policy being the automatic trigger points and the automatic impersonal warnings which could ultimately lead to dismissal. He also drew attention to the lack of an appeal mechanism in the early stages. The Head of Human Resources indicated that managers did have discretion in the way the outcome of meetings were communicated. The Chairman undertook to ensure that all managers and Human Resources officers were fully aware of the necessary procedures. In response to a question relating to the implementation plan agreed by the Director of Learning and Development, the Director confirmed that a report on that matter would be submitted to Cabinet.
The next process would be for the Council to recommend acceptance of the Policy to schools, following which it would be a matter for the Headteachers and Governing Bodies to determine. In response to concerns from Councillor Birch that the matter should be discussed further with all relevant parties, the Principal Human Resources officer present indicated that discussions had taken place over the last two years and that consultation was normally undertaken with headteacher and trade union representatives only. Following discussion, a motion was put by Councillor Birch that the Policy be revisited and further consideration given to its content by trade union, headteacher and governor representatives together with the Director of Learning and Development and Head of Human Resources. The Chairman then put forward the following amendment:
“THAT, having heard the concerns of the trade unions, the Policy be referred to Cabinet for a decision as to whether the Policy should be adopted or taken back for further consultation”.
Upon being put to the vote, the amendment was carried.
(b) Suitable Alternative Employment in Cases of Redundancy
Mr. Cox had indicated in his written submission that the Council had failed in its duty of care to provide suitable alternative work to a teacher being made compulsorily redundant despite there being a number of suitable jobs available. He stated that proper processes should be in place well in advance to avoid future compulsory redundancy either by early retirement or some other means – as had been the case in many other Councils in Wales for some years. The Director referred to the need to act quickly in respect of a recent case and accepted that the situation could have been better handled. He intended to bring forward proposals in relation to redeployment for consideration at the Education Forum with the aim of having a scheme for the effective redeployment of staff in place early in the autumn term. He indicated, however, that there could be no guarantees that compulsory redundancy would be avoided.
(c) Facility Time for National Office
The above matter had withdrawn from consideration by the JCF in July 2010 following assurances from the Director of Learning and Development that it would be resolved. Mr. Cox stated that there had been no such resolution, that there was no policy in place, and that whilst schools had released staff, they were not being reimbursed and had now started to refuse. He indicated that he had been obliged to raise the issue again since no progress had been made – that it had, in fact, been ongoing since 1999 and that he had been waiting since that time for some recognition of his role. The Director of Learning and Development fully accepted that he had been unable to resolve the situation, commenting that a solution needed to be found concerning facilitating time off for local, regional and national office and a requirement that he cut the facilities budget by £20k., and the fact that he was being also forced to reduce staff due to budgetary constraints.
Discussion ensued on the above, suggestions made including that regional and national government be asked to address the issue of payment of facility time for regional and national duties and that Mr. Cox discuss the position with the General Teaching Council for Wales. Mr. Cox then reiterated that the problem related only to his national duties and that an agreed arrangement was required in that respect. The Chairman concluded discussion of the matter by asking the Head of Human Resources to chair a further meeting between Mr. Cox and the Director, the outcome of which was to reported to a future meeting of the JCF.