Location: Shimkent Room, Daneshill House
Present: Employer Side: Councillors, K. Vale (Employer Side Chair), R.A. Clark, R.G. Parker, S. Taylor. Staff Side: Pam Chapman - (Staff Side Chair in Chair), DCS Housing Services (UNISON), Roland Ayles - DES Admin & Direct Services (UNISON), Jim Brown - DCS Community Development (UNISON), Courtney Giles - DCS Community Development (UNISON), Gary Palmer - DCS Building Maintenance (AMICUS/UCATT), Peter Terry - DES Architects & Property Services (UNISON), David Binge (T&GWU) - (substitute).
Others: Bill Welch - Assistant Chief Executive, D. Williams - Acting Head of Personnel Services and Diane Rodgers - Principal Personnel Officer (as advisers to the Employer Side) and Ian Gourlay (Committee Administrator).
Start Time: 6.00pm
End Time: 7.20pm
Business: Apologies for absence were received from Darron Nicholson (T&GWU). There were no declarations of interest.
Decision: It was RESOLVED that Councillor K. Vale be elected as Employer Side Chair and Pam Chapman (UNISON) be elected as Staff Side Chair of the Joint Consultative Committee for the 2003/04 Municipal Year.
Decision: It was RESOLVED that Peter Terry (UNISON) be elected as Staff Side Secretary of the Joint Consultative Committee for the 2003/04 Municipal Year.
Business: The Committee considered a report on its terms of reference and constitution. The Staff Side requested that reference be made on the Constitution document as to the date on which the latest version had been approved by both sides of the Committee.
Decision: It was RESOLVED that the Committee's Terms of Reference and Constitution, as appended to the report, be approved.
Decision: It was RESOLVED that the Minutes of the Meeting of the Committee held on 27th February 2003, having been circulated, be taken as read, confirmed and signed by the Staff Side Chair as a correct record.
Business: MINUTE 8 - UNION REQUESTS TO OFFICERS TO CONVEY COMMENTS AND INFORMATION TO ELECTED MEMBERS
The Staff Side Secretary commented that he had yet to receive a response from the Employer Side regarding this matter. The Assistant Chief Executive stated that he believed he had provided feedback on the matter, but that he would nevertheless provide a written reply to the point.
MINUTE 11 - URGENT BUSINESS - USE OF INGELHEIM LOUNGE
The Staff Side referred to the unavailability of Civic Suite meeting rooms due to the heavy volume of bookings. This often resulted in additional cost to the Council as officers had to use alternative accommodation for meetings, such as the Stevenage Arts and Leisure Centre, for which they were charged.
The Staff Side wondered if perhaps, the Bridge Link could be used on a short-term basis for meetings. The Staff Side also asked if flip charts could be permanent fixtures in each meeting room to avoid officers having to borrow them from other sources.
The Committee Administrator was requested to investigate these issues and write to the Staff Side Secretary and Chair.
Business: The Staff Side Secretary introduced this item by referring to the recently published Local Government Pay Commission report. He commented that the Staff Side was looking for recognition that the low level of pay in Local Government needed addressing and hoped that the Authority would consider a reasonable Pay Award for 2004/05 and be supportive of the Unions' claim.
The Committee viewed a video produced by UNISON highlighting the low level of pay in Local Government.
The Staff Side Secretary stated that Local Government Pay Commission report affirmed many of the issues raised in the video. He summarised some of the report findings as follows:-
- There should be no tension between investing in staff and investing in services. The pay and reward system required improvement, especially as there were difficulties in recruiting in certain areas and some staff were earning at a relatively low rate of £5.35 per hour.
- Equality was a necessity and not an option. In this regard, the Staff Side Secretary considered that an agreed Job Evaluation Scheme was vital and asked the Employer Side to speed up the process towards implementation of the Council's Scheme.
- NJC earnings between 1988-2002 fell below the national average and NJC pay increases between 1993-2002 were lower than for other Public Sector workers (e.g. Police, Nurses etc.).
- The gender pay gap in Local Government was 19% higher than other public sector workers, with a 42% gap between part-time workers.
- Above inflation pay rises in Local Government could be justified on equalities grounds. There appeared to be a lack of understanding of equalities issues, and the use of an equality-proofed Job Evaluation (JE) Scheme was essential. The Staff Side Secretary re-iterated his view that, although the latest SBC JE Scheme was an agreed model, it was still a long way from completion. There needed to be a real commitment of funds for a thorough JE exercise.
- It appeared the NJC JE Scheme had a negative reputation amongst some Employers. The Pay Commission could find no evidence to prove this point.
- There appeared to be a move away from long service-based to performance-based pay scales. Performance-based schemes should pay appropriate attention to equalities issues.
- The Pay Commission felt that there was still a role for national bargaining on Terms and Conditions. At a local level, the Staff Side was not opposed to negotiating variations to terms and conditions with the Employer Side in accordance with Part III of the National Agreement.
The Employer Side thanked the Staff Side for sharing the UNISON video. The Pay Commission report had just been received in the Authority, and its contents had yet to be considered by Officers or Members. The Council was about to embark upon its Budget round for 2004/05, and the Employer side explained that budget provision in relation to the Pay Award, together with the rest of the Budget, would be considered in the context of the projected £4M deficit in the Council's General Fund Revenue Finances.
Business: The Staff Side Secretary expressed a general concern about the application of market/scarcity supplements to various posts in the Authority. In particular, he gave the example of the Business Manager post. The postholder had previously been undertaking the duties of the post on a consultancy basis. Upon the post being evaluated at a lower level, the salary difference between that and the postholder's consultancy rate was made up by way of a scarcity supplement. The Staff Side was concerned that no objective justification for a scarcity supplement had been given. The Staff Side Secretary commented that another individual carrying out similar duties could, in such circumstances, pursue an equal pay claim, in view of the fact that the post had not been 'market tested'.
The Staff Side Secretary continued by referring to two Members of Staff at London Road Depot who had recently been slotted in to identical posts as part of the Changing Gear re-organisation. One member of staff had accepted the post at the stipulated salary level, whilst the other was offered the post inclusive of a scarcity supplement. The Staff Side Secretary again queried the objective justification for the application of a scarcity supplement bearing in mind neither post had been advertised.
The Staff Side Secretary concluded with the view that the pay/grading structure of the Authority was being distorted by the use of market/scarcity supplements.
The Assistant Chief Executive suggested that the Secretary and Chair of the Staff Side meet with the Acting Head of Personnel Services to discuss this matter, a suggestion with which the Committee concurred.
Business: [NOTE: Prior to the discussion on this matter, the Assistant Chief Executive declared an interest and withdrew from the meeting.
He returned at the conclusion of the debate upon the item.]
The Staff Side Secretary referred to the urgent report on a Departmental Re-organisation considered by the Executive on the 3rd September 2003, and commented that the Staff Side had only received a copy of the report that same day.
The Staff Side Secretary considered that the decision made by the Executive should have been subject to Trade Union consultation. Instead, within a day or so of the decision, details of the Re-organisation were published to all employees, but UNISON has still not been advised formally. The Staff Side Secretary had received no answer as to why the usual Union consultation mechanism had been abandoned in this case, both in terms of lack of consultation before and after the report had been approved.
In relation to the content of the Departmental Re-organisation report, the Staff Side Secretary referred to the fact that one of the agreed decisions was for a 10% increase in a Chief Officer's salary to reflect additional responsibilities. He asked why the agreed Job Evaluation Scheme for Chief Officers and Heads of Service had not been used in re-evaluating the responsibilities of the post. He also referred to another Chief Officer who had recently taken on additional responsibilities without any commensurate renumeration.
The Staff Side Secretary had raised the matter with Chief Officer Board and had received a response from the Chief Executive dated 29th October 2003. The Staff Side Secretary considered that the Chief Executive had failed to address all of the concerns raised in his letter and had provided no comment as to why the Employer had diverged from the usual procedures for Union consultation. He sought an assurance that the usual procedures would be applied in the future.
The Employer Side noted the Staff Side's comments. The Employer Side Chair suggested that the Staff Side Secretary arrange a meeting with the Chief Executive to discuss this issue.
Business: The Staff Side Secretary referred to the current review of the Play Service, and in particular the fact that in early Summer 2003 a consultant had been commissioned to carry out the review. At no time during the review had the Staff Side been invited to become involved in it.
The Staff Side Secretary commented that the Head of Community Development had advised that it was a Management and not a Best Value Review, and that the Staff Side would be furnished with a copy of the report when proposals were ready for consideration. The Staff Side Secretary was of the view that the Trade Unions should be involved as stakeholders throughout the whole process regardless of the status of the Review, and that to be consulted after proposals had been prepared was too late.
The Staff Side Secretary stated that the Trade Unions had not been advised of the terms of reference for the Review or provided with the name of the consultant. Despite a request from the Staff Side for a meeting with the Head of Community Development and consultant, no such meeting had been arranged. The Staff Side Secretary understood that the report was to be submitted to the next meeting of the Executive, and expresed a hope that the Staff Side would soon be supplied with a copy.
The Employer Side advised that the report was to be submitted to the Resources and Corporate Management Review Panel on 10th November 2003.
The Employer Side had no objection to Staff Side representatives receiving a copy of the report and entering into discussions with officers the day after the Panel meeting. The report was then scheduled to be considered by the Performance, Priorities and Improvement Group on 18th November 2003 and then the Executive in December 2003, and so the Staff Side would have two further opportunities to input into the process.
Business: PROPOSED WAGES AND PRODUCTIVITY AGREEMENT FOR BUILDING MAINTENANCE AND SEWERS DSO
The Staff Side Secretary referred to a report submitted to the Executive on 15th October 2003 regarding a proposed wages and productivity agreement for the Building Maintenance and Sewers DSO. The report stated that some progress had been made towards an agreement, but the Executive had resolved that if no agreement was reached by 10th November 2003 then the Service would be market tested. The Staff Side had not been advised of the reasons why such a deadline date had been imposed.
The Staff Side Secretary advised that both sides had been close to an agreement on 2nd October 2003, but that at a subsequent meeting held on 24th October 2003 the Management Side had withdrawn from the agreement, and both sides has arranged to meet again on 3rd November 2003. The Committee noted that this meeting had been cancelled by management and re-scheduled to 11th November 2003. The Staff Side was extremely concerned that the meeting had been re-arranged to take place after the Executive's deadline and asked if the Employer Side was able to authorise an extension to the deadline.
The Assistant Chief Executive stated that the Employer Side had no authority to extend the deadline and that such authority rested solely with the Executive. However, he undertook to investigate this matter as a matter of urgency and keep both Chairs informed of his findings.
Business: In view of the fact that the next scheduled meeting of the JCC (21st January 2004), clashed with the CPA visit, the Employer Side requested that the meeting be re-arranged to a later date.