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Agenda Item No.

 

JOINT CONSULTATIVE FORUM

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 12th November, 2012.

 

Present:  Chairman: Councillor G.H. Roberts (Chairman); Councillors K. Hatton, A.G. Powell and E. Williams.

 

 

Representatives of the Trade Unions: 

 

Ms. G. Southby (Vice-Chairman); Mr. G. Beaudette (NUT); Mr. T. Cox (NASUWT): Mr. P, Carter. Mr. N. Hart, Ms. K. Matthews, and Mr. G. Moseley (UNISON); Mr. N. Stokes (GMB).

 

 

Members and trade union representatives were informed that Councillor Powell would be unable to attend for the beginning of the meeting.  The Chairman notified all present that the meeting was in fact at that juncture inquorate and asked whether they were prepared in the circumstances to proceed with the presentation.  All present agreed that the presentation should go ahead.  The Chairman then welcomed Mr. W. Hills to the meeting and invited him to proceed.

 

 

(a)       Essential Skills Programme - Presentation by Mr. W. Hills, The People Business Wales Limited and Report of the Head of Human Resources -

 

Mr. Hills opened his presentation by explaining that the Essential Skills in the Workplace Programme demonstrated a commitment by the employer to support employees who might have essential skills needs, such as literacy, communications, information and communication technology and use of number.  There was no charge for the training and staff would receive a recognised qualification on completion of the same.  In addition to being of benefit to the organisation by, for example, equipping staff with better problem solving skills, the programme would enable staff to grow in confidence and improve customer service.  Experienced tutors would identify the skills needs of the workforce and assist in addressing those needs with minimum disruption to the business.  He confirmed that the specific needs of individuals would be assessed, either by a paper or IT based test and the training offered would be tailored to suit individual needs.  When asked the duration of the training, Mr. Hills indicated that would be dependent upon an individual’s needs and abilities.  He quoted 30 hours over a period of time as being average.  Training would either take place in the workplace or in one of the company’s two training facilities in Barry and would be facilitated by sympathetic and empathetic tutors at no cost to the Council.  Training would normally take place in normal working hours but arrangements could be put in place for that to occur outside those hours; he also referred to the employer having to address the issue of employee time. 

 

The report of the Head of Human Resources sought the support of the JCF in rolling out the Programme across the Council.  The Council had already signed up to The Employer Pledge which had been developed by the Welsh

Government to help all adults achieve a level 1 standard in English and maths and was working with The People Business Wales Ltd. to provide free assessments and workshops for staff to help them improve their key skills..  Funding was available through a 5 year European Social Fund.  The JCF was reminded that addressing essential skills in the workplace was supported by the CBI Wales, Wales TUC and the Sector Skills Councils amongst others.

 

Mr. Hills stated that he would be meeting with the Council’s Training Manager and his team to rollout the message to managers and the trade unions and encourage participation.  In response to a query, he confirmed that funding was assured until March 2015 and he was hopeful that it would be continued beyond that date.  Discussion then ensued on the issue as to whether employees would be given time off work to attend the training and, since reference had been made to engaging the trade unions in promoting training, what support would be given to trade union representatives by way of facility time to enable them to undertake the same.  The Head of Human Resources confirmed that the time off for training, as appropriate, would be offered to those employees adversely affected by job evaluation and that the issue of facility time would form part of the discussions to be had in relationship to partnership working.

 

Following the conclusion of questions, the Chairman thanked Mr. Hills for his presentation.

 

 

Councillor Powell was now in attendance and, following a short recess, consideration commenced of the remaining business on the agenda. 

 

 

(b)       Apologies for Absence -

 

These were received from Councillors F.T. Johnson, Mrs. M. Kelly Owen and Mrs. A.J. Preston; Ms. P. Harvey, Mr. R. Hughes and Ms. S. Rees (UNISON); Mr. N. Patterson (UNITE).

 

 

(c)        Minutes and Matters Arising -

 

AGREED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 9th July, 2012 be accepted as an accurate record.

 

The following matters were referred to under 'Matters Arising':

 

·                    Arising from Min. No. (d) - Facility time: Mr. Carter referred to the issue of facility time not having been resolved at the meeting on 17th July with Regional Officers, and that concerns in relation to facility time extended to all trade unions representatives.  As regards facility time for national office, the Head of Human Resources drew attention to a meeting held on 25th October with Mr. Cox and a national representative when a resolution was achieved for the remainder of the current and potentially next year.  Mr. Cox indicated that meeting had been very helpful but that a written policy was required.

·                    Corporate Health and Safety Committee: the next Corporate Health and Safety Committee would take place on 10th December.

·                    Central South Consortium/Joint Education Service (JES): Mr. Cox stated that, whilst there had been discussions with the trade unions on HR policies and the transfer of staff in the early stages, there had been no trade union meetings since the JES had started in September and that there was no consultation process in place.  In response to a request that attention be drawn to that matter, the Chief Learning and Skills Officer agreed to pick that up.  Mr. Carter also referred to the concerns previously expressed in relation to the need to be kept up to date on developments at a local level and the numerous requests for meetings in relation to the Penarth Learning Community involving UNISON, GMB and UNITE to discuss staffing issues at the earliest opportunity.  The Chief Learning and Skills Officer undertook to arrange the same.

·                    JCF Constitution: Mr. Carter referred to previously expressed concerns relating to trade union representatives having been excluded from meetings of the JCF, commenting that the trade union representatives were part of the meeting.  The Head of Human Resources stated that, in respect of the order of items on the agenda, the practice would be to alternate management and trade items from now on.

·                    Sickness absence (schools): Mr. Cox drew attention to the meeting with ACAS on 17th July when ACAS had stated that there was no point in the meeting going ahead since the officers in attendance on behalf of the Council were unable to make decisions, adding that the provisions within the Burgundy Book were not met.  He indicated that there was to be a meeting on 30th November when some of the issues could be dealt with and that the Council should look at its procedures for resolving disputes.  The Operational Manager (Human Resources) stated that the former Chief Executive had agreed some concessions in relation to the policy which it had been hoped would be of assistance in resolving the issue.  He also referred to the meeting on 30th November and to the fact that, if a resolution were not to be achieved, Members would be required to determine the way forward.

·                    Consultation arrangements (schools):  The Chief Learning and Skills Officer stated that there was an Education Consultative Forum later in the day and that further meetings would be scheduled.

 

 

(d)       JCF Constitution -

 

The Constitution as appended to the report had been amended to reflect the decision taken at the previous meeting to amend Point 5.3 in relation to the Appointment of Chairman.  The additional further amendments proposed in relation to Point 6.3 which had been put forward to take account of the recent Directorate changes were accepted. 

 

Mr. Hart then drew attention to various paragraphs within the Constitution where mention was made that elected Members had voting rights and the trade union representatives did not, asking whether the trade union representatives were there as equal partners or as “window dressing”.  The Chairman explained that the terms of reference of the JCF, as read out at the meeting, were agreed annually by the Council.  The Chairman went on to say that information and advice was required in order that consideration could be given as to making the JCF a fully participative body as requested by the trade union representatives.  Mr. Cox indicated that the JCF was seen as the court of last resort, that the Council’s procedures for resolving disputes were inadequate and that other Councils allowed voting rights across the board.  The Chairman reiterated that the position as to whether the JCF could be made more participative would need to be looked into.  In response to a question from an elected Member as to whether this issue had been raised previously, Messrs. Carter and Hart stated that it had, that it was “noted” and that nothing had happened as a consequence.  The Head of Human Resources undertook to look into the matter on the lines suggested by the Chairman and stated that it would feed into the developing partnership working.  Mr. Carter said that was not the appropriate route and that the matter needed to be progressed given that there were long standing concerns relating to the involvement of the trade unions in the JCF and the reporting of their views to Cabinet.  Mr. Hart echoed those concerns, stressing that the fundamental concern was the effectiveness of the JCF and that the resolution of the issues should be delayed no longer.  The Chairman asked the trade union representatives to put their concerns in writing to the Head of Human Resources (either individually or collectively) at the earliest opportunity, indicating how they would like to see those concerns translated into making the JCF a more constructive and representative body.

 

Following the above discussion, Mr. Carter requested that where there was a divergence of views between trade union representatives and the elected Members, that be reflected in the minutes. 

 

AGREED –

 

(1)       T H A T the Joint Consultative Forum Constitution be amended as proposed in the report.

 

(2)       T H A T the trade unions write to the Head of Human Resources indicating their concerns and proposals for their resolution.

 


 

 

(e)       Directorate Consultative Groups -

 

            Social Services

 

The minutes of the Consultative Group meetings for Social Services held on 21st May, 25th June, 23rd July and 20th September, 2012 were submitted for consideration.  Mr. Carter stated that the trade unions enjoyed a healthy rapport with management within Social Services.

 

AGREED – T H A T the minutes be noted.

 

 

(f)         Information on the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) Fee for Intervention (FFI) -

 

The FFI had come into force on 1st October, 2012.  Under the Health and Safety (Fees) Regulations 2012 those breaking health and safety laws were liable for recovery of the HSE's related costs including inspection, investigation and taking enforcement action.  The fee would be based upon the amount of time the inspector had to spend identifying the material breach of the law, helping the organisation to correct that breach, investigating and taking enforcement actions.  Costs for other associated work were also recoverable including writing letters/reports, preparing and serving notices, follow up work to ensure compliance, taking statement etc.  It was noted that the charge for 2012/13 would be £124 per hour.  The report contained examples illustrating some situations where risks would be deemed likely to result in significant or serious personal injury or ill health and examples of failures. 

 

Messrs. Carter and Hart expressed concerns that, whilst heath and safety issues were regularly discussed within Social and Visible Services, that was not the case within other Directorates.  The Corporate Health and Safety Officer indicated that there were 2 Corporate Meetings and 2 within Education annually.  Whilst accepting that matters could be considered at the Corporate meeting, Mr. Carter made the point that there were no specific arrangements covering staff in, for example, the Civic Offices or the Dock Office.  The Head of Human Resources confirmed that the aim of improving consultative arrangements within each Directorate was an element of the partnership framework which was being progressed.  Mr. Hart commented that this should have been addressed prior to the changes in Directorates taking effect and that staff within Development Services should have their own health and safety meetings.

 

The Head of Human Resources agreed that the matter needed to be addressed and trade union representatives asked when and how it would be progressed.  In conclusion, the Chairman stated that there were proposals in hand to progress the issues raised.

 

 

 

(g)       Update on Job Evaluation Appeals -

 

Work was progressing to deal with all the job evaluation appeals and the updated statistics as at the end of October 2012 were presented.  The Head of Human Resources updated the JCF as shown below:

 

·                    100% of the appeals from those adversely affected had been reviewed by the Job Evaluation Team and 89% had been considered by the joint trade union and management Moderation Group

·                    The Moderation Group was now meeting 3 times a week and dedicated time and resources had been put aside for the Appeals Panel to conclude its work by New Year’s Eve.

 

As indicated above, resources had been redirected to ensure that appeals from all those who were adversely affected would be finalised by the end of December 2012.  Once that work had been completed the focus would be placed on the 229 other “gainer” appeals to ensure that they were completed by June 2013 at the latest.  Attention was also drawn to the launch of a redeployment scheme for employees who remained adversely affected at the beginning of October which provided an opportunity for those employees to be given “prior consideration” for vacant posts before being released for wider advertisement.  Mr. Hart, as a member of the Appeals Panel, drew attention to the amount of time that the Panel was required to sit, to the pressures he felt members of the Panel had been put under over the last 6 months or so to ensure that what he considered to be the unreasonable deadline of the end of the year was met, and that his line manager had expressed concerns at the length of time he was required to be away from his desk.  The Head of Human Resources stated that the timescales had been set some time ago and that undue pressure had not been brought to bear on any one concerned with the job evaluation processes; he asked that any members of staff feeling that way let him know their circumstances and that he would address the same.  The Operational Manager (Human Resources) indicated that all members of the Single Status Group were committed to bringing the process to a conclusion and that any service issues identified as a consequence would be addressed.  Mr. Carter indicated that trade union representatives were feeling pressurised to do their jobs and to deal with job evaluation; he referred to the fact that whilst they were away from their workplace, a backlog of work built up and asked that managers be requested to address that issue.  The Head of Human Resources again reiterated the point that any concerns should be referred to him for resolution.

 

In conclusion, the Chairman stated that any member of staff feeling undue pressure as a consequence of dealing with the job evaluation process notify the Head of Human Resources so that any issues raised could be addressed were possible.

 

 

 

 

 

(h)        Partnership Working -

 

Preliminary discussions had taken place with a number of the local trade unions with a view to reviewing current employee relations within the Vale and specifically to build on the recognised strength of those relations. The review was being undertaken, in summary, to learn from the joint experiences in managing significant change over the last 3 years; to build on that experience ahead of the forthcoming challenges; to respond to any gaps in consultative arrangements, trade union facilities and training; and in light of the recent changes to the Council’s Directorate and Management Structure.

 

Use was being made of a partnership training programme as sponsored through the Welsh Government as a vehicle for progressing the aforementioned discussions which it was felt would help facilitate a “stock take” of the current employee relations within the Vale.  It was hoped that such training could commence in February, 2013.  Mr. Carter referred to the initial meeting having taken place in July and that no minutes had been taken, asking that in future such meetings be formally minuted and that those minutes be reported back to the JCF.  The Head of Human Resources stated that he had considered that initial meeting to have been more an informal discussion.  In response to a question from Mr. Cox, the Head of Service confirmed that the process involved all the recognised trade unions.

 

 

(i)         Protocol on Consultation on New and Review of Existing H.R. Policies and Procedures -

 

Appended to the report were a draft protocol and a list of policies, procedures, processes, advice and guidance in recognition of issues raised at the last meeting of the JCF.  The aforementioned documentation had been circulated to all recognised trade unions for comment and discussed at the Terms and Conditions meeting on 29th October.  The Operational Manager (Human Resources) stated that the protocol would be presented to the Employment Policy Formulation and Review Group on 30th November for further discussion.  At that time he would propose that the timescale as contained in the protocol in relation to the despatch of policies be reduced from 20 to 10 working days.  He suggested that, in the main, meetings of the Group be held monthly.

 

Mr. Cox thanked officers for the production of the protocol but made the point that sufficient time must be allowed prior to meetings for trade union representatives to read, digest and, where necessary, take advice on the content of the documents going before the Group.  Mr. Carter reiterated Mr. Cox’s comments, referring also to the volume of paperwork coming before trade union representatives and the need to consult with local/regional colleagues on the same.  The Operational Manager proposed that those matters be discussed more fully on 30th November.

 

 

 

(j)         Feedback on Policy Development -

 

The report set out the current position on HR Policy Development as at 17th October 2012.  There were no comments.

 

 

(k)        Staff Survey 2011/12 -

 

The results from the 2011/12 survey together with the Action Plan and Employee Engagement Plan (as presented to the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) in September 2012) were appended to the report.  The key issues arising from the survey as shown in paragraph 5 of the following were as outlined below:

 

·                    staff in some areas of the Council felt they had insufficient access to information in relation to the organisation to carry out their roles effectively

·                    a need to ensure consistency across the Council in relation to staff opinion on the learning and development opportunities available and in relation to the PDR process

·                    a large minority of respondents felt they were not adequately consulted about changes

·                    a significant minority of respondents felt they did not receive recognition for good work.

 

In response to the last issue referred to above, the Head of Human Resources drew attention to the fact that Focus Groups with staff would be held during 2013, that staff engagement process would be revisited as a consequence, and, in response to a question from the trade union representatives for further details, that the Focus Groups would likely be arranged in the latter part of the year. 

 

Messrs. Cox and Moseley suggested that the results of the survey would be far more informative if actual staff numbers were referred to rather than percentages.  The number of respondents to the survey, whilst being an increase on that in recent years, was considered to represent around 25% of the total workforce which Mr. Hart stated indicated that a significant number of employees had not been aware that a survey was being undertaken.  Mr. Carter reiterated those concerns and asked whether employees would have needed access to a computer to have taken part.  The response given was that it had been undertaken both electronically and as a paper exercise and significant attempts made to reach all employees.  The Head of Human Resources undertook to ascertain the means by those 955 respondents to the survey had submitted their comments.  Mr. Cox questioned why teachers had not been included in the survey and whether the removal of those replies which showed “neither agree nor disagree” significantly skewed the conclusions reached.  The Head of Human Resources indicated that the staff survey had been conducted by the Council’s Improvement and Development Team and that he would seek responses to the questions raised.

 

In light of the above, trade union representatives requested that they be consulted on future staff surveys.  Representatives would then be aware that the views of staff were being canvassed and could encourage participation.  Both Messrs. Carter and Hart confirmed that the survey had never been discussed at any forum they had attended.

 

In summing up the discussions, the Chairman indicated that the information presented in the survey should be used as a developmental tool to inform the next survey and that the Head of Human Resources request the Operational Manager (Corporate Policy and Communications) to respond to the questions asked above.

 

 

(l)         Draft JCF Agenda and Items -

 

Mr. Carter raised the issue referred to at the last meeting of the JCF in relation to the order of items on the agenda whereby trade union items always appeared at the end of the agenda and referred to the need for trade union issues to be afforded adequate time for discussion.  He accepted the agreement reached earlier in the meeting that the order of reports on the agenda from here on in would alternate with the trade union items appearing before those of management on the agenda for the next meeting.

 

Mr. Carter also requested that the timescales for the despatch of papers for the informal meeting with the Chairperson, Vice Chairperson and Head of Human Resources be amended to allow more time prior to that meeting for the content of those papers to be shared with trade union colleagues. 

 

 

(m)      Job Evaluation Hardship Payments -

 

Mr. Hart referred to an earlier request for the extension of the hardship payment having been refused in light of the assurance from the Head of Human Resources that all appeals for employees adversely affected would be completed by the end of 2012.  He stated that as yet not all adversely affected staff had been notified of the outcome and asked the JCF to consider extending the period of detriment were the declared deadline for the completion was not met.  The Head of Human Resources responded that all staff involved in meeting that deadline were working incredibly hard to ensure the deadline was met and questioned the necessity for any extension since there remained 2 full calendar months before the detriment payments ceased.  In conclusion, Mr. Hart reiterated his request that the hardship payment be extended to reflect any further delays and slippage that might occur.