Agenda Item No.
JOINT CONSULTATIVE FORUM
Minutes of a meeting held on 9th July, 2012.
Present: Councillors K. Hatton, F.T. Johnson, Mrs. M. Kelly Owen and G.H. Roberts.
Representatives of the Trade Unions:
Mr. P. Carter, Mr. G. Moseley, Ms. S. Rees and Ms. G. Southby (Unison); Mr. G. Beaudette (NUT); Mr. T. Cox (NASUWT); Mr. T. Greaves and Mr. N. Stokes (GMB) and Mr. N. Patterson (UNITE).
(a) Appointment of Chairperson -
AGREED – T H A T Councillor G.H. Roberts be appointed Chairperson for the duration of the current administration.
(b) Apologies for Absence -
These were received from Councillors G. John, A.G. Powell and Mrs. A.J. Preston; Mr. N. Hart, Mr. R. Hughes and P. Whitcombe.
(c) Notification from the Trade Unions of the Name of the Vice-Chairperson-
AGREED – T H A T it be noted that Ms. G. Southby had been appointed Vice-Chairperson.
(d) Minutes and Matters Arising -
AGREED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 5th March, 2012 be accepted as an accurate record subject to the following amendment within Minute No. (d)(ii) – the name of the Primary School referred to in the first sentence should read Oak Field.
The following matters were referred to under “Matters Arising”:
· Facility time: Mr. Carter expressed his disappointment that the aforementioned matter, which had been identified in January 2010 and had been previously discussed at two meetings of the Forum, had yet to be resolved. He indicated that formal agreement was required. The Head of Human Resources confirmed that he had had detailed discussions with regional officers from both UNISON and GMB when all had agreed that there were wider issues to discuss than facility time. He confirmed that he was meeting the two Regional Officers next Tuesday (17th July) when issues in relating to the employer / employee relationship would be further discussed. The Head of Human Resources also indicated that he had discussed the matter with Mr. Patterson as Secretary of UNITE. Mr. Carter reiterated his view that facility time was a major issue, as was the attitude of some managers in respect of releasing trade union officers to undertake their representational role. Mr. Carter referred again to the need for a proper facility time agreement covering all trade unions and trade union representatives and for clarification of grass root trade union facility time entitlements and not just that of the Secretaries. In conclusion, the Head of Human Resources confirmed that he was meeting with the Regional Officers from UNISON and GMB the week after this meeting and that Branch Secretaries were welcome to attend.
· Facility time for national office: Mr. Cox referred to this issue having been first been raised in 1999 when he had taken up office as a National Executive Member. He stated that the meeting which had been scheduled for April had not taken place until June and that the draft report referred to in the minutes had not been circulated n advance of that meeting. He reiterated the need for a formal written policy to be in place in respect of facility time in the interests of clarity and asked for a commitment that, whilst recognising that a short-term solution had been identified, the matter would be resolved as soon as possible. The Head of Human Resources gave that commitment.
· Concerns regarding agency staff: in response to queries, the Corporate Health and Safety Officer confirmed that she would provide evidence to the trade union Secretaries as to the training received by agency staff prior to their commencing work with the Council.
(e) Directorate Consultative Groups -
The minutes of the Consultative Group meetings for Social Services held on 23rd January, 27th February, 26th March and 23rd April, 2012 were submitted for consideration. Mr. Carter referred to page 7 of the minutes and to concerns expressed therein relating to the costs of agency staff and to the implications thereof for permanent members of staff. He confirmed that the issue of agency staff would be placed on forthcoming Social Services Directorate Consultative Group agendas.
(f) Minutes of Corporate Health and Safety Committee – 18th June, 2012
Mr. Cox referred to item no. 7 which related to the statistics reported regarding accidents/incidents to staff, commenting that no reports had been made of verbal abuse in schools between April 2011 and March 2012. The Corporate Health and Safety Officer stated that staff were encouraged to report all such incidents. Mr. Cox indicated that he also did what he could to encourage staff to report but that schools did not pass that information on to the Council. Discussion ensued as to the role of the Governing Body in this matter and the responsibility of both the Council and the trade unions to ensure that all incidents/accidents were reported to the Council. Mr. Carter indicated that the underreporting of those issues was not confined to schools and was, in fact, Council-wide. The Corporate Health and Safety Officer confirmed that all staff were required to complete accident / incident forms which should the be passed to the manager in the first instance in order for the manager to assess what remedial action (if any) should be undertaken to mitigate risk prior to the form being forwarded to Human Resources.
Mr. Cox indicated his view that there was a culture of underreporting incidents of this nature nationwide and that action should be taken to rectify the situation. The Chairman suggested that the issue be referred back to the Corporate Health and Safety Committee for further consideration.
(g) Central South Consortium / Joint Education Service - Presentation
The Head of Strategic Planning and Performance informed Members of the progress achieved in developing Education Consortia arrangements to deliver a Joint Education Service to the following 5 Authorities within the Central South region: Bridgend, Cardiff, Rhondda Cynon Taff, Merthyr Tydfil and the Vale of Glamorgan. The Business Case submitted in November 2011 had now been approved and progress was continuing. The Consortium was currently in the process of encouraging schools to sign up to the trading services and prospectus had been sent out. In response to a question from Mr. Carter as to what consultation had taken been undertaken, the Head of Service indicated that consultation had been at regional level. Mr. Cox indicated that he was involved with the regional consultation and that the unions were still awaiting documentation requested earlier in the month. The Head of Service then continued by indicating that where appropriate staff had been matched to jobs, that appointments were ongoing and that only one member of staff within the Vale had been unsuccessful. She stated that the Consortium was in the process of developing a Transitional Plan, that the expectation was that a Joint Committee of elected Members would be established to oversee the work of the Consortium and that an interim legal agreement was in place regarding the sharing of costs, liabilities and responsibilities.
Mr. Carter referred to the concerns being expressed by staff and the need to know the current position and future proposals at local level. He further referred to staff having been offered positions where the terms and conditions relating to those posts were unknown and drew attention to the Council’s duty of care to its employees and the need for the employees involved in this process to be fully informed. The Principal Personnel Officer indicated that the processes had been undertaken fairly, that the timeframe as stipulated by the Minister was tight and that she was meeting with the Advisor imminently. Mr. Cox commented that the timescale required everything to be in place by September, that the Consortium was focussed almost entirely on the Minister’s priorities and that it was questionable whether educational standards would be raised as a consequence. Mr. Cox stated that the focus was on “monitor, challenge and intervene” and not on support, being in fact basically another inspection team and the last thing schools required. The Head of Service indicated, inter alia, that there was a great deal of support built into the system, that a governance structure had been agreed, that a Joint Committee of elected Members would be in place by September and that the scrutiny role was being developed. In response to the final request from Mr. Carter that there should be local consultation, the Principal Personnel Officer stated that was being addressed.
(h) Update of Senior Management Restructure
The Head of Human Resources took Members through his report which had commenced with the secondment of the Director of Learning and Development in March, 2012. Given that the Managing Director would not take up her post until 1st August, 2012, the changes required to be made to the structure on StaffNet would not be made until after that date. He informed the Forum that Jennifer Hill had been appointed to the post of Chief Learning and Skills Officer and that she would hopefully take up her position with the Council by 17th September. He also stated that Debbie Marles had been appointed as interim Monitoring Officer for one year on an honorarium basis. Residual issues clearly remained to be dealt with, such as the position in relation to personal assistants / secretaries, but implementation was ongoing. In response to a question as to the post of Head of Housing and Building Services, the Head of Human Resources stated the situation was under review.
(i) Update on Job Evaluation / Equal Pay
The report outlined the progress to date in the implementation of the above following the collective agreement with the trade unions on 21st December, 2011. The Head of Human Resources stated that there remained a great deal to be done and thanked the trade unions for their contribution to the process. It was noted that 96% of staff who had attended ACAS settlement sessions had either accepted their hardship or compensation payments. In addition, the Council had also completed the “without prejudice” settlement of 981 historical equal pay claims (and potential claims) as part of the commitment set out in the Collective Agreement and following the completion of a robust risk assessment process. It was noted that the current major area of work related to the appeals process and details in relation to the order and timescale for the consideration of those appeals received were set out in paragraph 5 of the report. Mr. Greaves, on behalf of the joint trade unions, expressed appreciation of the work being undertaken in that respect in relation to those employees affected by imminent TUPE transfer arrangements and Councillor Mrs. Kelly Owen congratulated officers on their achievements. Members were pleased to note that the Single Status / Job Evaluation Forum would continue to meet to oversee the implementation of the job evaluation project and to ensure that the scheme was consistently applied and that the new pay structure maintained its integrity.
(j) Feedback on Policy Development
The report set out the current position in relation to HR policy development as at 22nd June, 2012. Mr. Cox indicated that the teaching trade unions had not been consulted on the policies listed despite some employees within schools being affected but later accepted that he had had sight of those relating to Occupational Health and the Management of Contractors. Following some discussion relating to the current way consultation was undertaken, it was agreed that further consideration should be given to devising a formal written process as to how consultation should be undertaken with all trade unions in relation to policy development. That procedure should be brought back to the Forum.
(k) Proposed Timetable of Meetings 2012/13 -
The report proposed that the previous practice whereby meetings be held on Mondays, commencing at 10.00am be continued. The dates shown on the draft timetable contained therein, however, required amendment given certain Members’ prior commitments..
AGREED – T H A T the timetable of meetings be agreed by the Joint Secretaries.
(l) Amendment to the JCF Constitution -
Point 5.3 of the Constitution of the Joint Consultative Forum required to be amended since no Cabinet Member had been appointed to sit on the Forum at the Council’s Annual Meeting and no Chairperson had been appointed at that time.
Mr. Carter took the opportunity to express the hope that the trade unions would not be asked to leave meetings of the Forum as had occurred previously. Mr. Cox referred to point 7.6 of the Constitution which allowed for either employer or employee representatives to request an adjournment. The Chairman explained that was standard to a Constitution such as this and was in the interests of both parties.
Mr. Cox drew attention to point 2 of the Constitution which laid out the purpose of the Forum. He referred to the fact that the items submitted by the trades unions were always last on the agenda, asking that there be some flexibility in the order of the reports in the future. The Chairman suggested that be considered at the agenda management meeting.
AGREED – T H A T Point 5.3 of the Joint Consultative Constitution be amended to read “ The Chairperson of the Forum will be elected at the first meeting of the Joint Consultative Forum following the local government elections for the duration of the current administration”.
(m) Trade Union Items -
(i) Request for Names of Participants on Housing Tenants Panel
The above item was withdrawn.
(ii) Memorandum of Understanding Schools
Mr. Carter indicated that the Council had agreed that meaningful consultation would be undertaken prior to the issue of section 188 letters but that schools were rushing into consultation. He referred to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which stated that meaningful consultation was to be undertaken, the purpose he believed was to avoid the issue of section 188 letters. The Head of Human Resources stated that the MOU was currently being reviewed but that the Council was legally required to issue section 188 letters where was a possibility of job losses. The Principal Personnel Officer present confirmed that the Council was following the Schools Redundancy Policy and suggested that consideration could be given in due course to reviewing that policy. During the course of the above discussions, Mr. Cox asked why trade union representatives were not involved in the discussions between Human Resources, Finance and the Schools in relation to their budgets. Following the issue of the revised MOU, the Principal Personnel Officer would hold further discussions with the Trade Unions if appropriate in respect of the Schools Redundancy Policy.
(iii) Sickness Absence (Schools)
Mr. Cox introduced the aforementioned topic by saying that it was primarily for the information of new Members of the Forum. The trade unions had expressed concerns in relation to the implementation of the policy in schools, particularly in relation the various trigger points therein and the consequent actions. He referred to the fact that the NASUWT was now at the final stage and that ACAS was involved in the resolution of the issue. The Principal Personnel Officer confirmed the date of the meeting with ACAS as 17th July.
Mr. Carter requested that any changes made to the policy as a consequence be implemented across the Council, drawing attention to concerns previously expressed in relation to what he termed “this draconian policy” and the trade union wish that the policy be reviewed.
In conclusion, Mr. Cox reiterated that the teaching trade unions had never been consulted on the corporate policy.
(iv) Consultation Arrangements (Schools)
Mr. Cox, in accepting that the points raised previously in relation to the need for clarification and a written policy on the procedures to be followed in respect of teacher trade union consultation on corporate policies at an early stage covered the above topic to a certain extent, drew attention to the need for the Education Consultative Forum to meet. He commented that the meeting scheduled on 12th March had been cancelled due to the lack of a Chairman and to the fact there was no-one available to chair the meeting scheduled for the following week. He indicated that there were mounting issues which required to be addressed. The Principal Personnel Officer commented that the workload of the existing Heads of Service was such that neither was available to chair, she would be pleased to meet with the trade union representatives.
The Chairman agreed that the situation needed to be addressed and it was noted that the newly appointed Chief Learning and Skills Officer would assume the role of Chair upon her taking up post in September.