Agenda Item No.
JOINT CONSULTATIVE FORUM
Minutes of a meeting held on 5th March, 2012.
Present: Councillor Mrs. J.E. Charles (Chairman); Councillors A.D. Hampton, Mrs. M. Kelly Owen and Mrs. M. Randall.
Representatives of the Trade Unions: Mr. P. Carter, Ms. C. Chilcott, Mr. N. Hart, Mr. R.M. Hughes, Mr. G. Moseley and Ms. S. Rees (UNISON); Mr. G. Beaudette (NUT); Mr. T. Cox (NASUWT); and Mr. N. Stokes (GMB).
(a) Welcome -
The Chairman welcomed all present, referring specifically to Colette Chilcott who would be assuming the role of Vice-Chairman for the meeting.
(b) Apologies for Absence -
These were received from Councillors Mrs. M.E.J. Birch and Ms. V.L. Ellis, Ms. P. Harvey (UNISON) and Mr. N. Patterson (UNITE).
(c) Minutes and Matters Arising -
The minutes were accepted as a correct record. The following matters were referred to under “matters arising”:
Facility time: discrimination against UNISON representatives – in response to Mr. Carter’s request that the issues be dealt with expeditiously given the time that had elapsed since the last meeting of the JCF, the Head of Human Resources agreed to address the issues by the end of April, 2012.
Schools’ Management of Attendance Policy – Mr. Cox referred to the NASUWT now being in a formal collective dispute regarding the foregoing, expressing the view that no changes had been brought about to the Policy and concerns in relation to the amount of consultation that had taken place. He had written to the Chief Executive in January requesting a meeting and had been offered the date of 4th April which, Mr. Cox indicated, did not accord with the timescales set out in the relevant conditions of service. The Head of Human Resources confirmed that the Council was aware of Mr. Cox’s concerns and that changes had, in fact, been made to the Policy as a result of the consultation undertaken. He also referred to the fact that the Council took a different viewpoint as to the issue of timescales and emphasised the fact that a meeting with the Chief Executive had been scheduled.
Facility time for national office – Mr. Cox drew attention to the fact that the meeting had not taken place in November. Following some discussion during which, inter alia, the point was made that this issue was separate from that relating to the collective dispute (which would be the matter discussed on 4th April), the Head of Human Resources agreed to organise another meeting for that specific purpose. In response to the suggestion from Mr. Cox that it would be useful to have a draft report circulated prior to that meeting, the Head of Human Resources agreed to facilitate the same.
(d) Minutes of Directorate Consultative Groups -
(i) Learning and Development: 7th November, 2011 -
Mr. Carter expressed concerns that the trade unions were not being consulted on ongoing staffing issues in respect of the Consortia which would require local trade union involvement prior to the implementation of the same by September. In response, Mr. Carter was informed that those matters were being discussed with regional trade union representatives at Consortia level and that negotiations were continuing. As a consequence the matter could not be discussed at a local level. The Head of Human Resources suggested Mr. Carter raise his concerns in the first instance at the Directorate Consultative Group.
(ii) Learning and Development: 16th January, 2012 -
Mr. Cox referred to there being a further meeting of the Directorate Consultative Group scheduled for the forthcoming week but that, in the interim, 3 staff members from Oakwood Primary School had been made redundant. He indicated that he was not aware of any pro-active efforts being made to find those staff members suitable alternative employment or to formulate early retirement packages, referring also to the timing of the redundancies prior to the summer holidays and the likely adverse impact of that on their future careers. Members were informed that this matter had been previously discussed within the Directorate with trade union representatives when the Council’s decision not to offer early retirement packages across the board because of the potential costs had been raised. Mr. Cox was reminded that the Council had no power to compel Governing Bodies to employ staff under threat of redundancy and that pupil numbers at the school mentioned above were diminishing, thereby resulting in a reduction in the number of staff required. Mr. Carter then referred to the continuing uncertainty as to the position of Learning Support Assistants, following which further reference was made by Mr. Cox to Council’s duty to seek suitable alternative employment for all of its employees. Mr. Beaudette drew attention to the fact that staff other than those referred to above had already been made redundant and that this was a growing problem.
Referring to the second paragraph of minute no. 2 of the Directorate meeting on 16th January in relation to the appointment of a Deputy Head, Mr. Hart asked if, indeed, appointments to that (and more senior) positions in schools were treated differently from appointments to other positions. As indicated in the minutes of the Directorate meeting, it was confirmed that was, indeed, the case since such appointments had to be made in accordance with legislative requirements. Mr. Beaudette then expressed the view that, despite there being specific regulations applicable to schools and the staff therein, the Council had in his opinion foisted the corporate Management of Attendance Policy onto schools. The Head of Human Resources rebutted that statement by indicating that the corporate Policy had, in fact, been refined to suit the needs the schools better. In response to questions, confirmation was given that the date of the meeting to discuss issues pertaining to the Management of Attendance Policy with the Chief Executive was 4th April and that the proposals currently being developed within HR in relation to redeployment/redundancy would be fed back to the trade unions.
(iii) Social Services: 12th September, 2011 and 24th October, 2011-
No questions were raised on the issues discussed at either of the above meetings. Mr. Carter asked that his appreciation of the working relationship between trade union representatives and management in both the Directorate of Social Services and that of Environmental and Economic Regeneration be recorded in the minutes. He also expressed the hope that that relationship could be replicated throughout the Council.
(e) Minutes of Corporate Health and Safety Committee: 23rd January, 2012 -
Mr. Carter referred to continuing concerns in respect of the amount and adequacy of the training received by agency staff. The Corporate Health and Safety Officer confirmed that all agency staff received manual handling training through the auspices of the agency prior to their employment by the Council and that any other training necessary to undertake the work required was delivered by the Council through the induction process. Mr. Carter referred to the passport system available for agency staff and Mr. Stokes proposed that agency staff should bring their training records with them prior to commencing work with the Council.
(f) Update on Job Evaluation/Equal Pay -
The Head of Human Resources, in introducing the report, referred to the significance of the previous week in that the Council now had a new equality approved pay structure in place. He indicated that approximately 83% of employees had signed up to the 'COT3' legal agreements and that it might take up to 12 months to complete all appeals. He drew attention to the fact that there was a substantial amount of work involved in progressing the new pay arrangements over the coming months and ensuring that it provided a sustainable basis for the future. In response to a question from Mr. Carter in relation to the issue of equal pay and whether it was too late to submit an equal pay claim, he responded that the Council was currently in discussions with Thompsons Solicitors and that it was a matter for employees as to whether they felt the need to submit an equal pay claim.
(g) Feedback on Policy Development -
The report set out the current position in relation to HR policy development as at 7th February, 2012. There were no subsequent questions.
(h) Requests for Information -
Mr. Carter had asked for the above matter to be brought before the JCF. He introduced the topic by referring to numerous requests made by the Trade Unions for timely information to assist representatives in safeguarding/furthering the interests of their members, quoting for example the lack of information in respect of the TUPE transfer arrangements for staff engaged at the Leisure Centres and at Dyffryn. He referred also to the various departmental restructuring exercises and to the implications of collaborative working for current staff, emphasising that the Trade Unions should be given the information necessary to fulfil their obligations to staff expeditiously and without the need to ask repeatedly for that information. When referring to requests for the early release of documentation in relation to appeals, Mr. Carter was reminded of the requirements of, for example, the Data Protection Act and the difficulty of discussing such matters without going into specifics – which would be inappropriate in the JCF. The Head of Human Resources indicated that the above matters should be raised at the Change Forum. Both Mr. Carter and Mr. Stokes referred to their having raised the issue as to membership of Housing Panels at the Change Forum where they had been told that membership details were covered under the Data Protection legislation. The Head of Human Resources suggested that they reiterate their concerns in this respect at the next meeting of the Change Forum.
This being the last meeting of the current municipal year and prior to the Local Government elections in May, the Chairman conveyed her thanks to all Members, Officers and Trade Union representatives on the Forum for their contributions over the period of her Chairmanship.