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Update on negotiations about local pay arrangements and terms and conditions
1st August 2017
Last September, Council agreed a remit for me to conduct negotiations with the unions about a further period of local pay arrangements covering the period 2018-2022 and possible changes to terms and conditions related to sickness pay and ongoing long service awards. This note provides a brief update on progress.
So far, I have held a total of seven negotiating meetings with representatives of the unions, and the next is scheduled for the end of August.
In respect of pay increases for the period 2018-2022, it has become apparent that – despite extensive efforts – the unions and Council are too far apart to make any further meaningful progress. In the following areas, the gap seems too wide to be bridged:
a) The unions’ desire, expressed by UNISON in writing to the Council, to return to the national pay agreement. This includes a desire to revalue points on the pay scale above the lowest grades, as a consequence of changes relating to increases in the national minimum wage, in order to maintain at least partly some of the existing differentials;
b) The unions’ unwillingness to negotiate an agreement that would last for the four year period that the Council authorised me as head of paid service to seek to negotiate.
These are fundamental stumbling blocks even before the question of the value of future pay increases is considered. In this respect again, the unions’ aspiration (as expressed in a 5% national pay claim for 2018-19 alone) far exceeds what the Council would be able to afford as set out in the negotiating remit.
Having consulted the political administration, I have informed the unions that the intention is to prepare a report for the Council meeting on 27 September which would ask for the Council’s agreement to issue a “section 188 notice” to the unions; to put proposals directly to individual members of staff; and, for any staff who do not accept them, to authorise a process of dismissal and reengagement. The report for Council would set out proposals for pay increases in each of the four years that are consistent with the remit agreed by Council, of increases worth 4% over four years, but would also take account of progress in national negotiations and any relevant developments in other parts of the public sector. The expected timeline is that staff would be asked to return letters of acceptance before Christmas and that - if necessary - formal letters of dismissal and re-engagement that would take effect on 31 March 2018 would be issued before the end of the calendar year.
In respect of changes to terms and conditions, the unions have agreed to ballot their members on proposals for phasing out ongoing long service awards. The proposals have been developed in the negotiations and incorporate suggestions from the unions. I urge those of you who are members of UNISON, GMB or Unite to take part in this ballot.
Further work and discussions about absence and sickness pay are ongoing with the aim of producing a significant cost reduction. It remains to be seen whether or not a mutually agreed position will be possible, and the report for Council in September may therefore also have to deal with this aspect. I hope this update is helpful. If you have any questions, please get in touch with me or any member of the Corporate Leadership Team.
Wyre Forest District Council