JOINT CONSULTATIVE FORUM
Minutes of a meeting held on 7th July, 2014.
Present: Councillor G. Roberts (Chairman); Councillors F.T. Johnson, A.G. Powell, Mrs. A.J. Preston and E. Williams.
Representatives of the Trade Unions:
Mr. P. Carter (UNISON), Mr. N. Stokes (GMB), Mr. C. Jordon (GMB), Ms. P. Harvey (UNISON), Mr. J. Davies (UNISON), Mr. G. Pappas (UNISON), Mr. G. Moseley (UNISON), Mr. N. Patterson (UNITE) and Mr. D. Dimmick (NASUWT).
(a) Apologies for Absence -
These were received from Councillors K. Hatton and Mrs. M. Kelly Owen, Mr. G. Beaudette (NUT), Mr. R. Bergman (Head of Human Resources) and Mr. M. Punter (Director of Visible Services and Housing).
(b) Minutes and Matters Arising -
AGREED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 17th February, 2014 be accepted as an accurate record.
In referring to Minute (i) â€œNew Agency Staff Contractâ€, Mr. Pappas referred to the Agency staff that had transferred to Randstad on 13th January, 2014.
Mr. Pappas expressed concern at inconsistencies in the way the contract was operating in that it was alleged that
- some employees were required to pay for their own uniform
- there were inconsistencies in the way the hourly rate and potential enhancements were being applied
- incremental payments were not paid on time
- there were inconsistencies in Randstad’s approach across the Council.
The view was expressed that it was immoral for Agency staff to pay for their own uniforms.
In response, the Forum were advised that the way forward would be for a meeting to take place between the Director of Visible Services and Housing, the Operational Manager Human Resources and Randstad.
Questions were also raised regarding the Council using an organisation that did not recognise Trade Unions, although the Operational Manager Human Resources stated that he was unaware of this.
Mr. Stokes spoke of members of staff of the Vale of Glamorgan Council who had been transferred to privatised services under TUPE Regulations and spoke of Dyffryn House and Gardens, the Leisure Centres, elements of the Catering Service and cleaning service.
It was alleged that some of the employers were reluctant to engage with the recognised Trade Unions and the Council was asked to continue to support the Trade Unions in seeking their future recognition by the incoming employer.
The Operational Manager Human Resources advised that the Council and Trade Unions worked together well, but schools had the ability to employ contractors.
The Operational Manager offered to remind contractors of their obligations under the TUPE Regulations. Furthermore, the Council was drafting protocols that schools would be asked to take account of when considering procurement opportunities.
(c) Declarations of Interest -
Paula Harvey declared an interest in Agenda Item No. 10, â€œLibraries Review Updateâ€ in that she worked within the Library Service.
(d) Libraries Review Update -
The Director of Learning and Skills advised that the Library Review had recently been considered by the Cabinet. The Strategy was intended to modernise the service and deliver budget savings of £500,000.
The key proposals for consultation included:
- increased charges to users
- creation of community libraries
- reduced hours.
The Cabinet had accepted the review and referred the proposals to the Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) for consideration.
The Director acknowledged that, in consultations with staff, the impression may have been given that the decisions had been made when they had not. If this impression had been given, the Director apologised.
When next reported to Cabinet, the report would refer to staffing issues and may propose a Staff Consultative Committee.
Ms. Harvey outlined how the proposals had affected her and her colleagues in the Library Service
- she had been told there would be no job for her
- staff would like some feedback
- a response was sought on the Trade Unions concerns
- why did an officer come to the Libraries and tell staff that there was going to be a restructure.
Mr. Carter stated that he had attended all staff meetings. There was confusion about what was being proposed.
Mr. Carter referred to S106 monies that had been awarded to increase library services in Wenvoe.
Ms. Harvey, in referring to the Delivery Plan, asked if it would be made available to the staff.
Also, the Director was asked if the report to Cabinet would answer the questions raised at the meeting of the Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning).
The Director advised that:
- the Strategy proposed changes to the Library Service whilst keeping the Libraries open in every building they were currently in
- the report to Cabinet would include the questions and answers raised at Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning)
- the report to Cabinet would cover staffing issues
- there will be a revised Delivery Plan and there will be changes to the overall Strategy
- there was every reason to think that the S106 monies would continue to benefit Wenvoe
- the Director was looking to engage further with Human Resources to promote staff engagement.
The Committee were advised that the consultation exercise was ongoing and that the process would be supported and enhanced through the involvement of the proposed Staff Reference Group.
Mr. Carter advised that the Trade Unions had tried to call a meeting in Barry Library with the staff. A room in the building had been booked but the Trade Unions were subsequently advised that they could not use the room. The Trade Unions felt that this action was considered to be deplorable and served to disrupt the Trade Union’s right of freedom of association. It was the Trade Union’s belief that this was a cynical attempt to prevent Unison talking to its members about redundancies.
The view was expressed that an investigation should be undertaken to see if the person responsible for cancelling the room booking had exceeded their powers and, if so what sanction could be imposed.
Discussions ensued regarding the use of rooms by the Trade Unions for the conduct of their business and it was noted that the matter would be considered by the joint Terms and Conditions Group.
Reference was made to a review currently underway by the Audit Section into the consultation process although it was stated that the report was yet to be finalised. It was stressed that although the review was being undertaken by the Senior Auditor it was not an Audit Review.
(e) Minutes of Directorate Consultative Groups -
The minutes of the following Directorate Consultative Groups were received:
(i) Learning and Skills: 19th February, 2014
(ii) Learning and Skills: 9th April, 2014
(iii) Social Services: 14th January, 2014
(iv) Social Services: 7th March, 2014
(v) Social Services: 7th April, 2014
(vi) Visible Services and Housing: 5th February, 2014
(vii) Visible Services and Housing: 5th March, 2014
(viii) Visible Services and Housing: 7th May, 2014
(ix) Visible Services and Housing: 4th June, 2014.
In referring to the minutes of the Learning and Skills Directorate Consultative Group of 19th February, 2014, Mr. Dimmick stated that the Trade Unions were not being consulted on co-education. A Working Group existed but had no Trade Union representation within its membership. Mr. Dimmick suggested that in the spirit of the Workforce Partnership that Trade Union involvement in considering these proposals should be full and should take place immediately.
In response, the Forum was advised that the Directorate was currently carrying out a feasibility study as per the decision of Cabinet. The results of the study would be reported to Cabinet in the autumn following which full and open consultation would take place.
The comments were noted.
In referring to the minutes of the Visible Services and Housing Consultative Group of 4th June, 2014, in particular the reference to Home Working.
Mr. Carter believed that the process had not been dealt with properly and attempts should have been made to get an agreement on home to work policy as opposed to it being forced through. Any changes to â€˜Terms and Conditions’ of staff should have been subject to a wider consultation exercise in advance of the Cabinet making a decision.
The Operational Manager Human Resources replied that the decision had followed several previous discussions within the Directorate JCF. More recent, discussions had taken place on 7th May, which formed part of a consultation process.
Mr. Stokes responded by saying talks had taken place as far back as February 2014, although he would not use the word â€˜consultation’.
He was concerned that this policy was being applied to staff following staff being issued a letter providing 12 weeks’ notice of implementation of the changes.
The report to Cabinet had mentioned a level of savings as a result of less petrol being used but Mr. Stokes stated that there would be a cost in terms of â€˜down time’ whilst staff travelled to the Depot and then onto their work.
Mr. Stokes asked about an employee who lived in the Western Vale who worked in the Alps Depot.
Mr. Stokes stated that he believed there should be a local agreement in place on this issue.
The Operational Manager Human Resources agreed to arrange a meeting of the Secretaries with the Director of Visible Services and Housing and regional officers to discuss this matter.
AGREED - T H A T the minutes of the Directorate Consultative Group meetings be noted.
(f) Dates of Directorate Consultative Groups -
AGREED - T H A T the dates of the Directorate Consultative Groups as indicated below be noted:
Learning and Skills - 25th June, 2014
Social Services - 23rd June, 2014
Visible Services and Housing - 2nd July, 2014.
(g) Minutes of Corporate Health and Safety Committee -
AGREED - T H A T the minutes of the Corporate Health and Safety Committee meeting held on 16th June, 2014 be noted.
(h) Williams Report Update -
The Williams Report had been published in January and discussed by the political parties. No consensus had emerged.
A Ministerial Group had been established, and it had recently been announced that â€˜Paving Legislation’ would be published. The Legislation would be put in place following the Assembly Elections in 2016.
As far as could be established, Local Authority elections would take place in 2017. However, if Councils wished to merge voluntarily then elections could be held in 2018.
There was still much uncertainty surrounding the proposal although it was understood that the new Councils would be established by 2020.
Mr. Stokes enquired if there were any options other than merger with Cardiff Council and was advised that this was in the political arena at present. This Council had not expressed a view.
The Forum were advised that the Council had collaborated with other Councils for many years. Who the Council collaborated with would continue to be based on the relevant business case.
Mr. Carter stated that he would have reservations with collaborating with Bridgend Council. He added that, in his opinion, the Vale of Glamorgan Council was entering into collaborations unnecessarily.
The Chairman advised the Forum that the Council was pursing collaboration for a variety of reasons but in particular due to the financial pressures facing the Council.
(i) Review of Management of Attendance Policy: Update -
The Review was being conducted on the basis of a report to this Forum from the Head of Human Resources on 20th November, 2013. The aims of the review were to:
- respond to concerns as previously articulated by the Trade Unions
- reflect best practice from elsewhere
- accommodate the changing demands of our Council and demands on our workforce in the future.
Discussions to date had been both helpful and constructive. It was hoped that this Forum could consider a recommendation for a refinement of the policy later in the year for referral to Cabinet.
The main areas of discussion with the Trade Unions and emerging consensus had included the following:
- the need to focus particularly on long-term absence given that this accounts for 2/3 of all sickness absence
- the increasing need to manage long-term/chronic sickness on a Case Management approach from â€˜Day 1’ of the absence
- the need to balance consistency of application (in terms of the policy) with the need for managers to be able to use appropriate discretion
- the need to ensure that any changes to the policy are tied to ongoing performance in relation to attendance levels.
It had also been agreed that any change to the Management of Attendance Policy should be included as an element of the wider review of terms and conditions currently being negotiated as part of Section 1 Action 3 of the Corporate Workforce Plan.
The Forum would be kept informed of progress in relation to this key policy area as the discussions continued.
AGREED - T H A T the content of the report be noted.
(j) Feedback on Policy Development -
AGREED - T H A T the current position on the HR Policy Development be noted.
(k) Regulatory Services Update -
Mr. Carter circulated a UNISON response to the Regulatory Services Collaboration - Consultancy Report, the contents of which read:
â€˜To date staff with Regulatory Services at Cardiff, Bridgend and the Vale of Glamorgan Councils have been told little or nothing about the final Atkins Consultancy Report. As a result a Freedom of Information (FOI) request was submitted through the Vale some months ago. Repeated request for this information have been refused at each stage of the process and submission has now progressed to the Information Commissioner for Wales.
Numerous staff from all 3 authorities fed into workshops in 2013 as part of this review. The Atkins Consultancy report was commissioned at great expense and their report was submitted to the Shadow Joint Committee on 28th November, 2013. An FOI request had been submitted by the Trade Unions to access the initial report which had been turned down given the report was â€˜work in progress’ and had been reworked on over the last 6 months.
Although this proposal has been overshadowed by the Williams Commission Report staff and Unions remain extremely concerned about the level of secrecy that has surrounded these proposals and the Atkins Report. Monies have been provided in good faith by the Welsh Government for this Collaborative Project who at the very least will expect proper communication with staff. This in view of the Trade Unions had not happened and communication had been one way. In order to extract any information the Trade Unions had needed to resort to seek disclosure through an FOI application. The Trade Unions queried why they were continued to be denied access to the report.
The Chairman advised the Forum that he had received a request to convene a special meeting of the Joint Consultative Forum to discuss this matter. He had not acceded because at that time there was little to discuss and because of the logistics of arranging the meeting.
Mr. Carter replied that a special meeting of the Forum would have also discussed the Library Service and the merger of the two schools in Dinas Powys.
Mr. Carter added that the Trade Unions had requested copies of the Atkins Report under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Legislation but had had their requests turned down on each occasion.
The Chairman replied that the Atkins Report was a draft and also, other parties were involved.
The Operational Manager Human Resources reminded the Forum that it was intended for the document would be shared with Trade Unions on 11th July, 2014.
AGREED - T H A T the discussions be noted.