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Agenda Item No.

 

JOINT CONSULTATIVE FORUM

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 20th November, 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. G. Beaudette (NUT), Mr. D. Dimmick (NASUWT), Mr. G. Pappas (Unison), Mr. N. Hart (Unison), Mr. N. Stokes (GMB) and Mr. G. Mosely (Unison).

 

 

(a)       Apologies for Absence

 

These were received from Councillors F.T. Johnson, Mrs. M. Kelly Owen and Mrs. A.J. Preston; and Miss. G. Southby (Vice-Chairman) (Unison), Mr. R.E. Frost (Unison) and Mr. J. Swan (Unison).

 

 

(b)       Minutes and Matters Arising

 

AGREED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 14th October, 2013 be accepted as an accurate record, subject as follows:

 

-               It be noted that Mr. Neil Hart is a Unison Trade Union Representative, not GMB.

 

 

The following matter was referred under Matters Arising:

 

-               In referring to page 2 of the minutes, point (d)(i) St. Cyres School, Mr. Carter wanted it noted that Unison had received advice that the St. Cyres issue was covered under TUPE.  The Operational Manager for Human Resources acknowledged the union position which was not subject to any current challenge. 

 

 

(c)        Minutes of Directorate Consultative Groups

 

The minutes of the following Directorate Consultative Groups were received:

 

(i)           Resources / Customer and Corporate Services: 22nd October, 2013

(ii)          Visible Services and Housing: 6th November, 2013

 

 

(d)       Dates of Directorate Consultative Groups

 

AGREED – T H A T the dates of the Directorate Consultative Groups as indicated below be noted:

 

-               Resources and Corporate and Customer Services: 22nd October, 2013

-               Visible Services and Housing: 6th November, 2013

-               Learning and Skills: 13th November, 2013

-               Social Services: 28th November, 2013

-               Development Services: 15th January, 2014.

 

 

(e)       Agency Workers Update

 

The Operational Manager for Human Resources spoke on the issue relating to the non application of the National Minimum Wage by an agency worker within the Parks section.  The Operational Manager for Human Resources advised that the concerns were unfounded as the information supplied was based on the National Minimum Wage rate prior to 1st October 2013 which was £6.19 and from 1st October 2013 this had increased to £6.31.  It was confirmed that this new rate had been applied as required under legislation. 

 

Mr. Carter requested further dialogue with regard to the application of the Agency Worker Regulations with particular reference to the payment of increments and to the issue of comparability of job roles and reward . 

 

A trade union representative alleged that it seem that the Parks Management has misinterpreted the provisions of the Agency provisions.

 

The Head of Visible Services and Housing advised that he had written to the agency on 8th November 2013 regarding the issues raised at the Joint Consultative Forum (JCF) on 14th October 2013 and confirmed that he would go through the information from the agency in liaison with Legal and Human Resources colleagues and report back to the Visible Services and Housing Consultative Group.

 

Mr. Pappas advised that he was satisfied that the Head of Visible Services and Housing had written to the agency to seek clarification with a view to resolving the issue, however he had general concerns about staffing issues in the Parks Section.  The Chairman confirmed that the Head of Visible Services and Housing had resolved to look into the issue as previously raised and report back to the Visible Services and Housing Consultative Group. 

 

AGREED – T H A T the comments of the Operational Manager for Human Resources and the Head of Visible Services and Housing be noted.

 

 

(f)        Management of Attendance Policy

 

The Head of Human Resources provided the JCF with a position statement on the Management of Attendance Policy.  This position statement addressed the concerns raised by Trade Unions about the Management of Attendance Policy as set out within the report.

 

Mr. Dimmick wanted it noted that the concerns raised within the letter pertaining to the Management of Attendance Policy were from the Joint Trade Unions, not solely himself. 

 

The Head of Human Resources advised that the report was a position statement and that the Management of Attendance Policy had evidentially worked well but that now absence was on the increase.  The report set out the concerns raised within the Trade Union letter as well as other concerns raised in the last 12 months.  The Head of Human Resources suggested through the Chairman that the activities listed in paragraph 29 be taken forward.  The Head of Human Resources advised that the report did not seek to provide an immediate recommendation for change (or indeed no change) and that there were lots of perspectives surrounding the management of attendance that would need to be taken on board.  He advised that a strong business case would be required for change to the Management of Attendance Policy as the Policy was working, but sickness absence was increasing. 

 

The Head of Human Resources recommended that a small working group be set up to seek the wider views of all stakeholders including Members, managers, CMT members, HR representatives and Trade Union colleagues.  This working group would focus on the three main issues as outlined within paragraph 25 of the report, pertaining to “triggers†and “totting upâ€, the perceived failure of the Management of Attendance Policy to distinguish between long and short term absence in the way that the triggers are operated, and the perceived lack of discretion for managers to distinguish between general and more chronic or re-occurring sickness absence.

 

The Chairman advised that sickness absence was an issue of huge importance and there was a need to reduce costs and improve conditions and that the JCF needed to work together to improve the situation. 

 

Mr. Beaudette was concerned that the statements made within paragraph 9 of the report could increase stress for staff and therefore lead to an increase in absence. 

 

There was a discussion surrounding the figures contained within paragraph 5 of the report, absence levels over the last five years.  The Trade Unions raised concerns over how the figures were calculated and how the Vale of Glamorgan Council ranked with other authorities in relation to sickness absence.  It was raised that the Forum should be looking at the All Wales figures for sickness absence as it was understood that the Vale of Glamorgan Council was near the top of the table of Councils with low sickness absence levels. 

 

The Head of Human Resources advised that the Vale of Glamorgan Council figures were publicly available and have been reported to Cabinet and Scrutiny, and confirmed that the Vale of Glamorgan Council had up until recently been near the top of the All Wales figures (in terms of good attendance levels).

 

Mr. Carter stated that the increase in the figures for year 2012/13 could be due to staff taking on additional duties due to a reduction in staffing levels.  The Chairman advised that new ways of dealing with these external pressures would need to be found. 

 

A discussion took place about the previous concerns as raised by the trade unions relating to the Management of Attendance Policy and how they were to be addressed in the proposal put forward by the Head of Human Resources.

 

The Chairman advised that the results of the staff survey had been brought to the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) and an area of concern was staff satisfaction, and that management should not rely wholly on Trade Unions to engage and inform staff.

 

The Chairman advised that the Head of Human Resources had set out a clear way forward and the JCF should agree on what the concerns were.  This was the best opportunity to address the Management of Attendance Policy issues.  It was a difficult and emotive issue but one that needed to be addressed.    

 

The Head of Human Resources set out an indicative time-frame for the progression of the review and indicated that the wider issue of staff engagement would be taken on board.  He stressed that the review was not about over raising expectations and that the working group would need to be aware of the future world, that it would be an honest and transparent review but that the review may not resolve all the concerns. 

 

Further concerns were raised with regard to how the policy was currently applied, what was contained within the Policy and what was not contained within the Policy and specific reference was made to the 20% rule.  The Trade Unions requested further clarification of these issues as they have members coming to them with general issues relating to the Management of Attendance Policy. 

 

The Chairman advised that the issues were not new to the JCF and that they now had an acceptance of a review of the Policy, which would be a significant review in consultation with the Trade Unions and it would not be wise to make ad hoc changes whilst a review was in progress.  It was advised that the JCF needed a way of addressing these concerns in the interim period.

 

The Head of Human Resources stressed that all members of his Human Resources team worked hard in advising Line Managers about the Management of Attendance Policy and they (and managers) did treat absence issues on a sensitive and individual basis and that it was not a mechanical policy operated mechanically by Line Managers or Human Resources Officers’ advice. 

 

Mr. Hart advised that the Trade Unions had set out concerns yet the report from the Head of Human Resources suggests that there would need to be a strong business case for a change to the Policy which intimated that any change would be detrimental. 

 

The Trade Unions made reference to individual cases and advised that staff were concerned about being on sick leave because of the Management of Attendance Policy.  The Trade Unions advised they wanted to be involved in the development of a Policy but one that was supportive.  In addition, the Trade Unions advised that individuals who abused the Policy should be taken to task, but that the existing Policy had a negative impact on staff.  

 

The Chairman advised that the JCF was in danger of negotiating on the new Policy in the meeting and advised that the issue of inconsistency had been identified as one issue to be discussed within the review.  In addition, the Chairman advised that if abuse of the Policy took place it should be dealt with as part of the Disciplinary Policy.

 

Further discussion took place with regard to the cost of sickness absence.  The Trade Unions advised that they required a genuine commitment to review the Policy honestly and required confirmation from the Head of Human Resources that this would happen.  The Head of Human Resources advised the Trade Unions to read the report which provided that commitment. 

 

AGREED – T H A T there would be a review of the Management of Attendance Policy as detailed within the report from the Head of Human Resources. 

 

 

(g)       Feedback on Policy Development

 

The Forum received feedback on the current position on HR policy development as indicated below:

 

            Consultation Complete, prior to CMT / Cabinet

            Whistleblowing Policy

 

            Employment Policy Formulation and Review Group (EPFRG)

            Guidance to Code of Conduct – ready to move forward

 

            Terms and Conditions Group

            Smarter Working Policy – consultation complete

            Adverse Weather Policy – being discussed.