Friday, 6 May 2011

Council looks to slash staff terms and conditions

Northumberland County Council (NCC) has now instigated measures to impose an unagreed Job Evaluation/Single Status Scheme on all employees of NCC, including all those former District/Borough staff and all TUPED-in staff (e.g. Homes for Northumberland, Superclean, etc).
The Council has taken this approach before negotiations with the Joint Trade Unions (JTUs) in trying to reach a recommendable agreement to our members have concluded.
The JTUs believe we were very close to achieving a recommendable agreement and in April 2011 the JTUs put forward a proposed timeline that could have potentially seen implementation of JE/Single Status with agreement by 4 July 2011, following a ballot of our members.
The Council have chosen to ignore this timeline and will impose a scheme with more detriment than what was on the table on 19 April 2011. The Council’s timeline is going through to 1 January 2012, and the JTUs believe that in this given time frame we could have resolved most of the outstanding issues. There are potentially serious issues affecting groups of workers which will see them suffer considerable loss which the Council have not and will not now deal with. The JTUs were trying to mitigate through the negotiations the significant financial losses and major detriment to the affected staffs’ terms and conditions.
Post imposition of JE/Single Status, the JTUs believe that the only way to resolve the detriment our members will suffer is through the Employment Tribunal and law courts. This would result in a considerable cost to the Council and to the council tax payers of Northumberland at a time when we were very close to reaching an agreement.
Whilst the sham of negotiations with the JTUs continued at our weekly JE/Single Status meetings, behind our backs the Council was planning its route of imposition. This is a move that only the most vehement, anti-trade union organisation would attempt. It is the opinion of the JTUs that in the background the Council was producing a programme which includes sending out Section 188 notices to dismiss and re-engage staff on lesser terms and conditions, and detrimental Job Evaluation outcomes.
An example of this was an agreed job re-engineering/job enrichment process where the JTUs agreed to work with NCC to try and resolve detriments following the job evaluation process. This process was supposed to be concluded in February 2011. However, it is still not complete and NCC has in the main failed to honour their obligations on this matter. 

The JTUs are extremely disappointed and angry that the Council has paid lip-service to a nationally agreed process for the implementation jointly of an equality-proofed pay and grading scheme. The Council has not even waited until the JTUs’ National Office JE/Single Status Units have reported back on the Council’s proposals, in spite of the JTUs providing the reasonable and sensible timeline outlined above.
At this moment in time it looks like the chances are slim-to-none of reaching agreement and until the Council move back from their position of threatened imposition, the JTUs will be looking at all legal challenges at our disposal to protect our members’ interests and support them through this difficult time. This could include protective awards, challenging an unagreed JE/Single Status outcome that will be without the Equality proofed ‘checks’ and Equality Impact Assessments.
The JTUs have repeatedly asked for information with regard to the detriments staff could suffer under this process over the last six months to try and mitigate the losses and this Council with their lack of forthcoming information, have made it impossible to follow the joint agreed guidance of the NJC for LG Services (the Green Book). The JTUs are quite clear this position has been reached by a strategic decision of the Politicians, the Chief Executive, Senior Management Team (SMT) and lead officers of the Council. As far as the JTUs are aware, Northumberland County Council is the only Council in the North East that has taken this position. All other North East Councils have introduced JE/Single Status by working with the trade unions and adopting the National Scheme (the Green Book) - the JTUs therefore, regard Northumberland County Council as an anti-trade union Council whose words do not add up to their actions.
As result of the breakdown of today’s talks, the JTUs have made a formal request to meet with the Chief Executive, SMT and Senior Politicians on Thursday, 12 May, 2011, with the hope of moving away from the dangerous path Northumberland County Council are preparing to go down. The Joint Trade Unions still believe that a negotiated settlement is the best solution for all parties concerned. However, the Council have now prevented that position from being attainable with their current course of action and the JTUs will continue to endeavour to resolve our current problems as soon as possible.
It is the JTUs intention to hold consultation meetings with our members early in June 2011 to update you on this matter. More information will follow after the 12 May 2011.

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