Agenda Item No.
JOINT CONSULTATIVE FORUM
Minutes of a meeting held on 14th October, 2013.
Present: Councillor G. Roberts (Chairman); Councillors K. Hatton, A.G Powell and E. Williams.
Representatives of the Trade Unions:
Mr. P. Carter (Unison), Mr. N. Patterson (Unite), Mr. J. Swan (Unison), Mr. G. Beaudette (NUT), Mr. D. Dimmick (NASUWT), Mr. R.E. Frost (Unison), Mr. M.W. Jones (Unison), Mr. G. Pappas (Unison) and Mr. N. Hart (GMB).
(a) Apologies for Absence –
These were received from Councillors F.T. Johnson, Mrs. M. Kelly Owen and Mrs. A.J. Preston and Mr. N. Stokes (GMB) and Ms. G. Southby (Vice-Chairman)(Unison).
(b) Minutes –
AGREED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 8th July 2013 be accepted as an accurate record, subject as follows:
- In referring to the first paragraph of minute (k), Mr. Dimmick referred to the use of â€œvirtuallyâ€ and stated that the word â€œcompletelyâ€ had been used.
- Mr. Dimmick advised that further to what was included within minute (k), he had also stated that on at least three occasions the joint policy had been presented by NASUWT and NUT which between them represented some 90% of all teachers.
- In referring to minute (e), Mr. Carter requested that it be recorded that he had not brought up the issue of the gas leak in C1V but had merely offered further clarification. By way of explanation, Mr. Carter stated that the matter had been raised at the meeting of the Corporate Services Directorate Consultative Group on 26th June 2013, but the required information had not been passed to Human Resources until 2nd July. In the circumstances, the matter could not have been resolved at the time of the previous Joint Consultative Forum on 8th July 2013.
(c) Declarations of Interest –
No declarations were received.
(d) Matters Arising –
(i) St. Cyres School
Mr. Carter advised that he had referred to the issue of TUPE at St. Cyres School and had been told that this was unlikely to be a TUPE issue and the Trade Unions were seeking legal advice. Mr. Carter further stated that he had not been provided with any written evidence to this effect from the Council.
In response, the Operational Manager Human Resources stated that several documents had been sent to Mr. Carter, giving all of the evidence with the exception of the legal advice received from the Council. The Trade Unions had been advised to seek their own advice on this matter.
The Chairman asked if it would be possible to reach agreement on whether TUPE applied and the Operational Manager Human Resources advised that he had spoken with Full Time Officers on this matter but had been unable to identify any case law that was applicable. Other information that had been obtained suggested that TUPE would not apply in these circumstances.
The Chairman expressed the view that this issue must be resolved and asked that the Trade Unions meet with officers to progress a way forward.
(ii) Consultation at St. Cyres School and Llantwit Major School
In referring to this item, Mr. Dimmick stated that he did not agree to a redundancy policy that was curriculum-led. On behalf of NASUWT, he wanted it recorded that he had not agreed to any such policy.
Ms. S. Alderman advised that during consultation on the policy, NASUWT comments had been noted but the policy was based on the legal definition of redundancy.
(iii) Moderation Group
The Forum was advised that agreement had been reached that the Moderation Group would continue until the end of March 2014 and would continue after that, but in a different format.
(iv) Facilities Agreement Update
Mr. Carter advised that extra time had been requested to deal with this matter.
(e) Directorate Consultative Groups –
The minutes of the following Directorate Consultative Groups were received:
- Development Services: 11th September, 2013
- Learning and Skills: 24th June, 2013
- Social Services: 23rd July, 2013
- Social Services: 17th September, 2013
- Visible Services and Housing: 30th July, 2013
- Visible Services and Housing: 4th September, 2013.
Arising from consideration of the minutes of the Visible Services and Housing Directorate Consultative Groups, Mr. Patterson referred to the previous scheduled meeting of the Group which had been cancelled for lack of business.
On reflection, he felt that despite there being no items on the agenda, there may still have been outstanding items that could have been discussed, and Mr. Carter referred to a particular matter which may well have been discussed.
The Chairman noted that this was a matter of concern and that there was clearly an item that could well have been discussed at this meeting.
AGREED – T H A T the issue be noted and that hopefully the matter would be discussed constructively at the next meeting of the Group.
(f) Date of Directorate Consultative Group –
AGREED – T H A T it be noted that the meeting of the Resources and Corporate and Customer Services Group would be held during the beginning of November 2013.
(g) Amendment to Constitution –
The Forum received a report which proposed a change to the Constitution of the Joint Consultative Forum (JCF).
The JCF was an important mechanism for joint consultation between the recognised trade unions and Elected Members on matters of mutual concern.
The JCF had been an important feature of the Council’s employee relations framework over recent years and had made appropriate recommendations to Cabinet on a variety of issues raised through discussion.
The Trade Union representatives had recently raised concerns about their ability to influence decisions taken at the JCF.
The concern related specifically to the lack of opportunity for them to vote as Trade Union representatives on any recommendations submitted to Cabinet and also to have their views / concerns adequately expressed / recorded as part of any referral to Cabinet.
The Forum considered a report which proposed an amendment to the JCF Constitution to help respond positively to the above without affecting the underlying role of the Forum.
Similar concerns to those set out above had been expressed in 2010, and the JCF Constitution was reviewed and then amended accordingly.
Such amendments were designed at the time to ensure an effective response to the Unions’ concerns. They included:
· an agreement than any member of the Forum (Elected Member or Trade Union representative) could request that comments or concerns be included in the minutes of the JCF
· an agreement that any point of dissention or concern should, indeed, be recorded fully in the minutes of JCF
· an extended timeframe and a stronger process for the Joint Secretaries to agree the minutes of the JCF (including any points of dissention)
· an agreement that any occasion where the Trade Union side were requested to withdraw from the JCF meeting (to allow Elected Members to deliberate on a particular issue) should be properly recorded in the minutes
· an agreement that the Head of Human Resources ensure appropriate feedback to the Trade Union side on issues referred to Cabinet.
The above amendments had worked well over recent years and had significantly reduced concerns about the accuracy of the minutes or the â€œunder playingâ€ of points of disagreement on any particular issue.
In April 2013, the Trade Unions one again raised concern about their lack of voting rights on the JCF and their subsequent inability to determine whether issues of concern were being adequately expressed to Cabinet.
It was agreed that the Head of Human Resources would consider the matter in more detail having regard to the experience of other councils and having discussions with the Head of Democratic Services, the Council’s Employment Lawyers and the recognised Trade Union representatives.
It was considered important to ensure that the above concerns were seen in context. The improvements set out above had made a positive difference over the past two years and the management and conduct of meetings has improved.
There has not been an occasion over the past year, for example, where a vote by Elected Members had been necessary.
Where the Unions had expressed any concern or dissent then this had been adequately recorded in the minutes for consideration by Cabinet. There had been no occasion where the minutes of JCF meetings had not been agreed by the Joint Secretaries.
The specific issue of voting rights for employee representatives on a Joint Consultative Forum (in the formulation of recommendations) was not, however, something which was applied consistently across other local authorities.
It was evident that a number of local authorities did for example provide the facility for both the employers and employee representatives to vote but only in relation to the formalisation of recommendations to Cabinet. This facility would seem to be reasonable and again reflective of current guidance on the governance of local authority meetings.
A change to the Constitution would therefore reflect â€œbest practiceâ€ and allow for recommendations to be made on the basis of the affirmative support of a majority of both the Elected Members and employee representatives of the Forum.
Such a change would help to deal with the current concerns as raised by the Trade Union representatives without altering the role of the Forum or undermining the integrity of the governance arrangements of the Council.
On the basis of the above, it was proposed that consideration be given to changing the wording of the Joint Consultative Forum Constitution as follows:
Amended to exclude the reference to Elected Members only voting rights.
Amended to exclude the reference to the lack of voting rights for the Vice Chair of the JCF.
Extended to include: -
No recommendation shall be regarded as carried unless it has been approved by a majority of both the Elected Members and the employee representatives of the Forum present at the meeting.
In addition to the above, changes had been made to refer to â€œrepresentativesâ€ of both the employers and employee representatives rather than â€œsidesâ€ of the Forum. This would help to reflect the positive and constructive role of the Forum rather than the more adversarial connotations associated with â€œsidesâ€.
The role of the Vice Chairperson of the Forum had also been clarified at paragraph 5.4 of the Constitution. This had been inserted to deal with the chairing of the Forum in the absence of the Chairperson and reflected wider practice in relation to the governance of Council Committees.
A change to paragraph 6.3 of the Constitution had already been made to reflect the local consultative arrangements in the new Directorates (following the senior management reduction exercise).
A copy of the full JCF Constitution with suggested amendments was given at Appendix 1 to the report.
Having considered the report, discussion ensued as to the role of the Vice Chair.
Mr. Carter expressed the view that he believed that the Vice Chair should chair a meeting if the Chair was not available, thus preventing the meeting from being cancelled.
The Chairman advised that this was implicit in the wording of paragraph 5.4.
In every case, the Committee were informed that this is what would happen, i.e. this was the normal practice. Should the Chair be unable to attend a scheduled meeting of the Forum, they may request that the date of the meeting be deferred.
Following a full discussion and the support of the majority of both Elected Members and Trade Union representatives, it was
AGREED – T H A T the above proposals be approved and be recommended to Cabinet for adoption.
(h) Update on Corporate Workforce Plan 2013 – 17 –
The Forum received an update on the implementation of the Council’s Workforce Plan.
The Workforce Plan had been endorsed by the Joint Consultative Forum in December 2012 and had been approved by Cabinet on 17th December 2012.
The Plan aimed to ensure that the Council had the right employees, in the right place, to meet future service needs.
The Plan reflected the vision and service aims as set out in the new Council Plan and the budget review projects for 2013-17.
The Plan was based on a comparison of the Council’s current workforce and future staffing needs over the next four years. A list of 30 actions had been agreed on the basis of the resultant â€œgap analysisâ€.
The report provided an update of progress on each of the 30 actions although it was appreciated that the 30 actions were spread over a four year period and, as such, progress could not be demonstrated in relation to all actions.
An overview of the developments to date was provided for the information of the Forum:
- Action 1: a preliminary review of management structures across all service areas had been completed. This had been undertaken with the support of the Local Government Association and a specific aim of the exercise had been to develop a set of organisational principles for future restructuring exercises. A report would be developed over the coming months to frame the conclusions in relation to this.
- Action 4: significant progress had been made in securing a new agency contract provider for the Council following a recent tendering exercise. The new contract would help manage the use and costs of agency staff in line with the aspirations of the Workforce Plan. A report had been presented to Cabinet on 9th September 2013.
- Action 5: all Chief Officers had now attended refresher training in relation to managing change and in accordance with protocols agreed with the Trade Unions. This would help to support the strategic approach to staffing reductions over the next four years and in line with Section 6.4 of the Plan.
- Action 6: a review of redeployment practices for those at risk of redundancy had been undertaken based on â€œlessons learnedâ€ from the successful programme of support given to those adversely affected by job evaluation. This would be refined over the next two months and help to reduce the consequences of staffing reductions.
- Action 14: the new Training and Development Strategy had been approved by Cabinet on 8th April 2013. This would specifically help to provide a clear road map in meeting the training and development needs as set out in the Plan.
- Action 18: work had continued in liaison with both managers and Trade Unions to respond effectively to recruitment and retention issues arising from the 2012 job evaluation exercise. A number of potential â€œriskâ€ areas had now been reduced as a result of the work undertaken and the introduction of a â€œmarket forcesâ€ policy.
- Action 23: a programme of change management training was launched in March 2013. This would now be cascaded to all managers as part of the annual training plan in order to help equip managers to manage change and service transformation.
- Action 24: a set of tools and protocols had been developed with the support of the Business Process Re-engineering team to help support managers in exploring partnership and collaborative working. This had undoubtedly helped to support progress in relation to the many current collaborative projects.
- Actions 27 and 28: an Equalities Data Set (EDS) had now been approved as part of the requirements of the Specific Duties for Public Authorities in Wales. The EDS was published on 1st April 2013 and would help provide a clear and analytical basis for the refinement of employment policies and the pursuit of a workforce which reflected the wider community.
The need to maintain a focus on workforce planning over the coming years, and ensure its congruence with wider financial and service planning, was appreciated.
To help support the above, the following measures were currently being pursued in accordance with Section 8 of the Workforce Plan:
- A new Human Resources Strategy was approved by Cabinet in March 2013. This was approved on the basis of the outcomes of the Workforce Plan and would now help in the focusing of resources to support the delivery of the Plan.
- The first Annual Workforce Planning Conference had taken place on 12th July 2013. This was sponsored by the Local Government Association and Skills for Justice and provided an opportunity to help improve our workforce planning processes to exposure to â€œbest practiceâ€ from other organisations.
- Supported workforce planning sessions would recommence with all Directorate Management Teams in October this year to help assess the workforce implications of the 2014/15 service planning process and to refine service based workforce plans.
- The above sessions would be supported by the availability of an agreed and common Core Data Set to help inform workforce planning analysis.
- The above actions would, in turn, help to refine the Corporate Workforce Plan and customise the supporting Human Resources and Training and Development Strategies.
The Council’s Management / Trade Unions Change Forum would continue to monitor the progress of the Plan as part of their regular monthly business activities. This group was chaired by the Managing Director.
Having considered the contents of the report, concern about the use of Agency staff was expressed, and a specific allegation made about a payment to a member of staff in the Parks Section.
Members enquired if the Agency carried out DBS checks on behalf of the Council and were informed that the issue of DBS checks was covered by the Council’s Safer Recruitment Policy.
It was reported that the Council had just entered into a contract with a new provider.
It was felt that these were matters that could not be adequately discussed further in the Forum at the present time and that the debate would benefit from a report on the operation of the Council’s contract for the provision of agency staff to a future meeting of the Forum. It was agreed that the Head of Human Resources would be provided with details of the specific concerns as raised by the Trade Union representatives and that the issues be addressed within the Service.
(1) T H A T the progress being made regarding the Corporate Workforce Plan be noted.
(2) T H A T a report on agency usage be presented to a future meeting of the Forum.
(i) Update on Trade Union Time off and Facilities – Corporate Agreement –
The Forum were advised of progress with the ongoing review of the Time Off and Facilities Agreement for recognised Trade Unions. A draft agreement had been distributed to the Secretaries of Unison, GMB and Unite following an initial joint meeting held on 25th June 2013.
The report itemised the meetings that had taken place since that date.
Meetings would continue, and the Trade Unions to date had provided initial feedback. However, formal comments on the latest draft of the agreement were still awaited and would for the focus of future discussions. Constructive dialogue was continuing throughout discussions.
It was also reported that the local Trade Union Secretaries had attended previous meetings but that Unison had recently requested that the Regional Representatives also attend at future meetings. After seeking views of GMB and Unite, it was agreed that Regional Representatives be invited to future meetings.
AGREED – T H A T the contents of the report be noted.
(j) Domestic Abuse Workplace Policy Update –
The Forum were advised that Cabinet had approved the new Domestic Abuse Workplace Policy on 29th July 2013.
The Policy was a response to the Welsh Government’s 10,000 Safer Lives Project which required Public Service organisations to adhere to a set of minimum standards. One of these standards was to have a Domestic Abuse Workplace Policy.
The report detailed how the policy had been launched / implemented.
Training sessions had already commenced for Chief Officers, Directors, Heads of Service and Operational Managers.
An e-learning training course for line managers and all HR staff was currently being developed; this would be ready for launch in November 2013.
The Welsh Government was monitoring the implementation of Domestic Abuse Workplace Policies. This included information about:
· how the Policy had been promoted and staff awareness raised
· details of training and numbers attending
· number of hits on staffnet page hosting the Policy.
The Policy would be reviewed one year following implementation.
AGREED – T H A T the update be noted.
(k) Feedback on Policy Development –
The Forum received a report on the current position on HR policy development as at 12th September 2013 as indicated below:
Recent Cabinet approval
Domestic Abuse Policy Cabinet 29th July 2013
Consultation complete, prior to CMT / Cabinet
Management of Contractors
Further Issues to be Clarified Prior to Proceeding
Probationary Period Procedure
Disclosure and Baring Policy
Violence and Aggression at Work
Employment Policy Formulation and Review Group (EPFRG)
Management of Attendance
Guidance to Code of Conduct
Terms and Conditions Group
Grievance Procedure *
Social Media Policy *
* To be referred to the EPFRG
Mr. Carter, in referring to the Council’s Management of Attendance Policy, expressed his frustration at the lack of response to requests by representatives of the Trade Unions for the Council to consider suggestions proposed in respect of the Policy.
Trade Union concerns had been expressed to CMT requesting the lack of a consistent application of the Policy throughout the Council.
Other concerns that had been expressed included:
- the 20% rule
- 30 days / 60 days rule
- lack of definition of the phrase â€œlong termâ€
- the Policy lacked clarity and could be ambiguous.
The feeling of the Trade Union representatives was that their suggestions were being ignored.
The Trade Union representatives stated that they intended to write to all Members of the Council to express their dissatisfaction with the shortcomings and inadequacies of the current Management of Attendance Policy.
In response, the Head of Human Resources gave examples of successful consultation that had taken place on various policy issues, one example being on the agenda of today’s Joint Consultative Forum – the proposed amendment of the JCF Constitution. This demonstrated true consultation.
The Head of Human Resources stated that he had not seen the letter, and neither had the Chairman. The Trade Union representatives were urged to consider consulting on the contents of their letter as a demonstration of their commitment to partnership working, but refused.
The Chairman advised that the Trade Union representatives did have the ability to consult on this matter and felt that it was a matter of regret that they have resorted to this.
Mr. Dimmick replied that this was an issue that had dragged on and on over the months.
The Head of Human Resources expressed the view that the issues with the Management of Attendance Policy could have been brought before the Joint Consultative Forum.
The Trade Union representatives were offered an opportunity to adjourn the meeting in order that they could discuss this offer between themselves, and this suggestion was accepted.
Having reconvened the meeting, Mr. Carter suggested that the Head of Human Resources be given a period of two weeks to look at this issue and bring a response to a specially convened Joint Consultative Forum. In the meanwhile, the letter from the Trade Unions to all Members of the Council would be put on hold.
The Chairman welcomed this suggestion but ventured that a two week period was insufficient and suggested that a period of one month may be more appropriate.
AGREED – T H A T further consideration of this matter be deferred to a meeting of the Joint Consultative Forum to be arranged mid-November 2013.