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Agenda Item No.

 

JOINT CONSULTATIVE FORUM

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 20th May, 2013.

Present: Councillor G.H. Roberts (Chairman); Councillors K. Hatton, Mrs. M. Kelly Owen, A.G. Powell and Mrs. A.J. Preston.

Representatives of the Trades Unions

Mr. G. Beaudette (NUT); Mr. D. Dimmick (NASUWT); Mr. P. Carter, Mr. N. Hart, Mr. R. Hughes, Mr. G. Moseley, Mr. G. Pappas and Ms. G. Southby (Unison); Mr. N. Patterson (Unite)and Mr. N. Stokes (GMB).

(a) Apologies for Absence -

These were received from Councillors F.T. Johnson and E. Williams.

(b) Minutes and Matters Arising –  

AGREED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 18th February 2013 be accepted as an accurate record, it being noted that there were no matters arising.

(c) Directorate Consultative Groups

The minutes of the following Directorate Consultative Groups were received:

  • Learning and Skills: 25th February, 2013
  • Learning and Skills: 15th April, 2013
  • Social Services: 28th January, 2013
  • Social Services: 19th February, 2013
  • Social Services: 19th March, 2013.

The following matters contained therein were raised:

  • Minutes of the meeting of the Learning and Skills Directorate Consultative Group held on 25th February, 2013 – paragraph 11 – facilities policy. Mr. Dimmick referred to the fact that this long standing issue remained unresolved and that a resolution needed to found expeditiously in order that he could properly fulfil his role. The Principal Personnel Officer indicated that this was being progressed
  • Minutes of the meeting of the Learning and Skills Directorate Consultative Group held on 15th April, 2013 – paragraph 2 – first aid allowance. Mr. Dimmick indicated that he was not aware of any staff being paid and questioned the accuracy of the minute. He agreed to raise the issue at the next meeting of the Directorate Consultative Group. 

 Paragraph 6 – facilities time. Mr. Dimmick drew attention to the minute again querying its accuracy. He stated that to be allowed just one day a week to undertake his trade union duties was unworkable, that it had been a suggestion and had not been agreed and reiterated that it required urgent resolution. Having been assured that the matter was in hand, Mr. Dimmick indicated that he would raise the issue at the next Directorate Consultative Group meeting.

Mr. Carter then raised the matter of facilities time in respect of UNISON and the other non-teaching trade unions, commenting that this was another longstanding issue which required expeditious resolution. Both Mr. Patterson and Mr. Stokes agreed drawing attention, inter alia, to the need for parity between the unions. The Head of Human Resources fully accepted that the issue of facilities time needed to be addressed. Mr. Stokes also pointed out that he, Mr. Carter and Mr. Patterson all came from the Directorate of Visible Services and Housing, commenting on the financial burden placed on that Directorate as a consequence. Mr. Patterson concurred and proposed that the financial impact on that Directorate be taken into account during future discussions on facilities time. The Chairman reminded the trade union representatives that their co-operation was essential in developing the Partnership Agreement and that the two matters went hand in hand. Mr. Carter then referred to an issue within a school where a trade union representative had not been released to undertake trade union duties. Given that the several bodies involved in school staffing arrangements, the Chairman proposed that the Head of Human Resources be asked to give advice to the school in an effort to move forward. It was subsequently agreed that progress on this matter be reported at the next meeting and in the context of the wider partnership work.

  • Minutes of the meetings Social Services Directorate Consultative Group - Mr. Carter referred to the ongoing issue of agency staff and queried the way in which the figure for agency staff was now calculated given that he understood that this task had previously undertaken by a former Operational Manager. The Operational Manager (Human Resources) indicated that departmental representatives collected the information which was then passed to Human Resources.  

    It was noted that the meeting of the Corporate Services Consultative Group, originally scheduled for 8th April 2013, had been rearranged for July and that the Group would be chaired by Huw Isaac. 

    (d) Public Sector Equality Duty: Employment Information, Pay Differences and Staff Training

    The Head of Performance and Development took Members through the report which outlined the steps to be taken in order to comply with the Public Sector Equality Duty. He explained that the Council was required to compile and publish the necessary information in relation to the protected characteristics. Employees would be requested to supply the information but could, should they prefer, choose not to disclose the information. He drew attention also to the fact that certain of the information being requested was recognised as sensitive in terms of data protection and that safeguards would in place to ensure that personal data was not released either deliberately or inadvertently. In response to a question from Ms. Southby, he confirmed that whilst the data obtained would be retained the questionnaires would be destroyed. In conclusion, the Chairman stressed the importance of the exercise in order to make real progress in respect of equalities and asked the trade union representatives to reassure staff that any information given would be well protected and properly processed.

    (e) Human Resources Strategy 2013 – 2017

    The Head of Human Resources drew attention to the above document as appended to the report which provided a strategic framework for the delivery of the actions set out in the Workforce Plan 2013/17 as set out on page 2. He referred to the development of a robust reporting mechanism to help measure performance and to the actions set out on page 15 to support the delivery of the Strategy, adding that the Change Forum would be just one of the mechanisms used. He comments that increasing the emphasis on employment engagement was one of the key themes. He also confirmed that the trade unions had been fully consulted on the contents of both the Workforce Plan and the H.R. Strategy.

    (f) Updates on Job Evaluation Appeals Process

    The Head of Human Resources opened by remarking that he anticipated this to be almost the last time a report on this matter would be brought to the Forum. He updated the report by stating that 94% of all appeals had been completed. He referred to the support mechanisms in place for those employees adversely affected and to the fact that the support package had been extended to September.  He indicated that 3 persons had currently been redeployed with another 2 on trial periods. In conclusion he thanked managers, the trade unions and the job analysts for their efforts; Mr. Carter reciprocated by thanking the Head of Human Resources for the assistance he had shown those employees adversely affected by extending the period of support.

    (g) Feedback on Policy Development

    The report set out the current position on H.R. policy development as at 5th April, 2013. Mr. Dimmick indicated that the list did not refer to a Teachers Association Facility Agreement. Following a brief discussion, it was agreed that this should not be included in feedback reports.

    (h) Proposed Timetable of Meetings 2013/14 – 

    The following timetable of meetings was agreed, with meetings commencing at 10am:

    14th October, 2013

    17th February, 2014.

    Further consideration would be give to the date of the meeting in July, 2013.

    Subsequently agreed by the Joint Secretaries as 8th July.

    (i) Home to Work Transportation, Parks Department (TU) -

    Mr. Pappas, who was one of the parties affected by the cessation of the annualised hours agreement, introduced the item. He referred to the removal of the previous arrangement in relation to home to work transportation for Parks employees as being an example of Parks being singled out and asked that it be reinstated until such time as a corporate policy could be introduced.

    The Head of Visible Services and Housing stated that he been party to negotiating the annualised hours agreement in 1998 and that it had been given as a concession to staff who were required to work 46 hours a week at single time. The agreement had ended on 10th March, 2013 and no business case could be made for its retention. The Head of Service confirmed that he had been looking at the introduction of a corporate policy and had recently met with trade union representatives on that very matter. He indicated that issues remained to be resolved and that the trade unions were awaiting further information from him. He was hopeful, however, that a corporate policy would be in place by the within twelve months.

    Ten vehicles had been used under the agreement for home to work transport. Mr. Pappas stated that ten vehicles were unnecessary and requested that consideration be given to allowing those employees affected to car-share and utilise just three. Mr. Patterson confirmed that all that was being requested was that the status quo remain until the corporate policy was agreed and that the withdrawal of home to work transportation in this case was discriminatory. Mr. Carter also stated that he considered the withdrawal of home to work transportation unfairly penalising the employees involved at a time when morale within that section was already low and requested home to work transportation be retained (albeit with three vehicles) until the corporate policy was introduced. A proposal was made that, on the assumption that negotiations in relation the corporate policy would be dealt with efficiently and an early resolution found, home to work transportation be retained until the corporate policy was in place.

    Mr. Pappas referred to the use of such vehicles in cases such as inclement weather whereby staff would be expected to be in work clearing paths through snow in the early hours of the morning and asked for flexibility in such circumstances. The Head of Service confirmed that the cessation of home to work transportation affected those employees who were party to the annualised hours agreement, that there was a business case for employees taking vehicles home on the occasions referred to above and that that would be included in the corporate policy. He also confirmed that he had met with Parks staff recently and was currently trying to address those matters adversely affecting morale.

    Following further discussion on the points raised above, the Chairman reminded all present that the Forum was a consultative body, the minutes of which were reported to Cabinet. Members were sympathetic to the concerns expressed and noted the perceived unfairness between particular groups of staff. The Chairman continued by stating that not only was further detail relating to the content of the corporate policy needed in order to allow full consideration of available options (if any) but that the Council’s financial situation and the avoidance of job losses had to borne in mind. A Member of the Forum reiterated the particular need given the current financial situation for good relationships to be fostered between the Council, its staff and the trade unions. When asked how much would be saved by the cessation of home to work transportation, the Head of Service indicated that the overall saving would be in the region of £100k.

    The Chairman concluded the discussion by stating that the minutes of this discussion would record the sympathy expressed by Members for the concerns expressed and the proposition put forward by the trade unions that the number of vehicles requested to be retained for use as home to work transportation be reduced from ten to three. The Chairman also referred to the work recently undertaken in respect of job evaluation, commenting that the scheme covered all types of remuneration awarded to staff and that home to work transportation was a benefit in kind which impacted on the scheme – an aim of which was to ensure everyone was treated in a consistent manner. He assured all present that Cabinet would be asked to consider the concerns.

    At this juncture, following a request, the Chairman adjourned the meeting for a comfort break.

    (j) Consultation at St. Cyres School and Llantwit Major School (TU)

    Mr. Dimmick updated Members by stating that the redundancy situations referred to in the report no longer existed, that staff had resigned at St. Cyres and that the Head Teacher at Llantwit Major had explained his rationale for “short-circuiting” the Avoidance of Redundancy policy. Mr. Dimmick said that the NASUWT was concerned that the policy had not been followed in either school and that, whilst having some sympathy with the idea of taking alternative measures to avoid compulsory redundancy, there were dangers in dealing with such matters in an “informal” manner. Mr. Dimmick referred to the fact that he could not be sure what advice was given to staff and what arrangements were being put in place. He indicated also that jobs were being lost that affected NASUWT members that he knew nothing about. He stated that there was a policy in place, that the policy was being flouted and that he did not think that Head Teachers should pick and choose to flout policy.   Mr. Dimmick then drew attention to a written potential informal arrangement in respect of redundancies which had been drawn up in Denbighshire and offered to circulate copies to all present for consideration.

    The Principal Personnel Officer clarified the position in respect of the situation at both St. Cyres and Llantwit Major Schools. In respect of the latter she indicated that she understood that agreement had been reached in respect of the informal arrangements. Mr. Dimmick responded that he could not support anything he had not seen and that NASUWT supported changes to the current scheme. In conclusion, he reiterated that NASUWT required that the policy be adhered to. The Chairman acknowledged the concerns expressed and suggested that the work currently underway on developing alternative arrangements to avoid compulsory redundancy be continued. Mr. Carter also mentioned that the Principal Personnel Officer had agreed to keep the other trade unions informed given the potential knock on affect of such redundancies on school based staff. 

    (k) Consultation Libraries (TU)

    Ms. Southby introduced the matter by referring to a meeting involving the Head of Strategic Planning and Performance, Chief Librarian and senior managers in libraries in the Spring which had centred on budgetary pressures and ways to save money. She indicated that the senior managers had been told not to pass the information onto staff. She further indicated that, when asked at that meeting about trade union involvement in the process, the Head of Strategic Planning and Performance had replied that they had not as yet. The Chief Librarian had then, rather than notify staff en masse, held meetings in individual libraries over a period of two weeks and that, as a consequence, rumours as to the future spread.  She continued by saying that information had subsequently filtered down from above that there would no closures or staff cuts – although that would be a possibility in the next financial year – and expressed her concerns at the way the matter had been handled. Mr. Carter also referred to the disappointing manner in which the above had been dealt with. The Principal Personnel Officer confirmed at this juncture that there were no proposals for staff cuts or library closures at present, reminding Members that all Departments had been asked to identify ways of making efficiency savings and that there would be a review of the library service in September, 2013.  Ms. Southby reiterated that when senior managers had met with the Head of Service and the Chief Librarian the likelihood of staff cuts and closures had been very real to those managers and that the damage had been done. Mr. Carter indicated that Ms. Southby, as a senior manager having been told not to discuss the subject matter of that meeting, had been put in an invidious position as a trade union representative. 

    The Head of Human Resources indicated that the need for Directorates to make efficiency savings had been discussed at the Change Forum when the library service had been mentioned. He indicated that the need to discuss issues of sensitivity with management team representatives was often appropriate, as was the need for the information to be handled with discretion. He confirmed that he himself had discussed exploratory options for efficiency services with his senior corporate management team and had relied in such officers to adopt appropriate discretion.

    He also indicated that it was not appropriate to discuss the actions of officers who were unable to attend the Forum. 

    Following further consideration of the points raised, the Chairman summarised the discussion by stating that savings had to be made, that discussions were held with senior managers, that staff in individual libraries had been paid separate visits over several weeks and that their concerns had been heighten as a consequence. Mr. Carter then said that it would have been helpful for the trade unions to have been aware of the situation in order to react to future queries from their members. 

    (l) Consultation Learning and Skills Directorate (TU) -

    Mr. Stokes referred to the proposed restructure in the Education Welfare Officer (EWO) Section of the Directorate and explained his concerns in relation to the lack of consultation.  Draft proposals had been forwarded to himself, Mr. Carter and Mr. Patterson as the secretaries of their respective unions but there had been no face-to-face consultation. The trade unions had agreed a new structure in 2010 but now the latest structure featured a person who had been seconded out of the Council some time ago, Mr. Stokes being of the view that the person concerned might have been promoted. Mr. Stokes asked what had been meaningful about that consultation.

    The Head of Human Resources drew attention to the fact that the issue had been discussed at the last meeting and that the Head of Service had tried to undertake meaningful consultation. The restructuring had been implemented with no resulting redundancies. Mr. Stokes made the point that the number of EWOs had been reduced which had placed increased pressure on those remaining in post and questioned how the person referred to above had obtained a post within the section. The Chairman explained that when employees were seconded there was a duty to take them back when that secondment ended. Mr. Moseley drew attention to the issue being that of perception amongst staff.

    Recognising the depth of feeling surrounding this issue, the Chairman suggested that further discussions should be held with the Head of Human Resources to clarify the current situation and learn lessons as to how to deal with such matters in the future. Mr. Carter replied that although consultation within the Directorate of Learning and Skills had been discussed at the last meeting of the Forum, no meeting had yet been held with the Head of Human Resources in relation to the development of a protocol and that the trade unions would be vigorously pursuing the resolution of the same. Mr. Carter concluded by stating that the trade unions wanted meaningful consultation to take place with managers throughout the Council.

    (m) Consultation on Proposals for Schools’ Reorganisation (TU) -

    Mr. Beaudette introduced the above item by referring to the work of a Scrutiny Panel into surplus numbers in schools, to the “secret” report of its findings and to the fact that the Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) approved the proposals put forward by that Panel and referred the same to Cabinet for consideration. Cabinet had subsequently rejected the proposals. Mr. Beaudette stated that schools had been visited by the Head of Service and Head Teachers and Chairs of Governors in at least two of the schools where closure had been proposed notified that H.R. would also be visiting them to discuss redundancies. At that time Head Teachers had also been reminded of their responsibilities under the Code of Conduct and that a breach of that Code could result in suspension. Information in relation to the proposals had been published in the press and, although told verbally about the proposals, Mr. Beaudette said that he and his colleagues still were unaware as to what those proposals were. Mr. Beaudette asked why Head Teachers and Chairs of Governors had been told when the proposals had not been approved. He asked what consultation had taken place, describing the process adopted as being “a recipe for conflict”.

    The Chairman replied that the Scrutiny Committee had no decision making powers and that the proposals had been forwarded to Cabinet for consideration. The information contained in the report had been considered exempt, that is not public information, for a purpose. He stated that the confidentiality had been irresponsibly breached and that had been the cause of the subsequent confusion and concern. He indicated that the report might well have contained some good work which could now be lost. The Operational Manager (Human Resources) drew attention to the Cabinet Member having given trade union representatives a verbal report on this matter.

    When Mr. Beaudette suggested that the input of the trade unions as regards the issue of school numbers could have been useful, the Chairman endorsed the sentiments expressed at the end of the written report as contained in the agenda, namely that “Unions and Associations … would … wish to work together with the Local Authority for the betterment of the service”. Another Member of the Forum indicated that what had happened, had happened and referred to the need for The Council and trade unions to move forward together from here on in. In response to a query as to whether an investigation had been launched to identify the source of the leak, the Chairman indicated that the question would be asked and the Forum notified.

    Given that consideration of the trade unions items had now concluded, Mr. Carter drew attention to the fact that the majority of those items related to their concerns in respect of the consultation process. The Chairman accepted that there were improvements which could be made but stated that he was of the view that consultation within this Council was undertaken rather effectively

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