Branch Secretary’s perspective – Council Reshape

 
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In June 2014 (Full Council), the Chief Executive brought forward a report providing financial information to assist elected members to develop a five-year financial strategy and a three-year budget. This report was developed further and was approved by elected members at Full Council on 18th Dec 2014. The ambitious proposal for the reduction of directorates from 6 to 4 also incorporated 12 service reviews over a 3-year period and an ERVS programme based on historical estimates.

A number of areas of concern were raised from staff engagement sessions held and were included in the 18th Dec 2014 report. These were;

In the Reshape of the Council – Progress Report 26th March 2015 dates were provided for the completion of structures;

Let’s zoom forward to the present day, February 2017, almost 2 years from the first progress report in March 2015. Has the Council achieved its goal or has it failed?

In the last Reshape Update in Sept 20th 2016, apparently the only Directorate having not completed its restructure was EEI. Why is it then that Unison is still being invited to consultation talks about matching pools for Communities and CYPLL? We are now almost a year later than advertised for Communities and we still don’t have stability and now the council must be looking at the next reshape which will inevitably happen due to austerity and year on year reductions from the Scottish Government settlement figures.

It was also everybody’s understanding that this reshape would be just targeting management – in practice this has proven not to be the case with almost all departments using the matching process for their new structure in posts below band 10. Clearly this was not in the original proposal put to elected members for approval in December 2014.

Where Change Management fails is not just the delay or the complexity of combining the 12 service reviews and an ERVS programme with a reduction in directorates but it fails at the fundamental level of preparation of staff. Managers are expected to embrace these changes but are they fully prepared? Have they received the appropriate change management training and development to clearly realize that leadership style has to be transformed? Many managers are finding themselves in new roles that they have little experience in and no requisite qualifications because the Matching Policy does not require successful candidates to have the essential criteria. No change management training has been provided to those new roles created to help managers adapt to their new environment. Management training has been penciled in by HR and will be rolled out over the next 18 months. Is this the right training and is it too late for this reshape or is it just in time for the next one?

To sum up, the groundwork for the Reshaping of Council involved staff engagement where staff raised a number of issues which were acknowledged in the report and have been subsequently ignored. The staff asked for this Reshape to be completed in a timely manner; this has not happened. A five-year period of stability was supposed to be introduced but the financial strategy that the Reshape is based upon runs out in 2019/2020, 3 years’ time. A cultural change was supposed to be introduced throughout the council; what I believe has happened is the imposition of brutal and draconian recruitment practices on all staff and not just the management tier as indicated in the initial proposal. This is an appeal to Senior Management and Elected Members, next time don’t just pay lip service to your staff actually do something about their concerns and make sure any future Reshape is staff and public-centered and not just about finances.

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Dear Member,

Local Government Pay

You will be aware that UNISON, along with the other trade unions representing members in Local Government, submitted a joint pay claim to your employer on the 12th January 2018. This claim was constructed following consultation with all members working in Local Government and you can read the detail of that here. This briefing is to bring you up to date with what has happened since then and what our next steps are in trying to secure you a decent pay rise.

The Offer:

Whilst our claim was submitted early, in the hope that the employer would get round the table quickly to ensure a negotiated settlement in time for the pay implementation date of the 1st April, the employer did not deal with our claim until much later - they wait until they are in receipt of all of the pay claims for all of the different Local Government bargaining groups. There are four bargaining groups in Local Government - yourselves as local government employees, Teachers, Craft Workers and Chief Officials.

We finally received a response from the employer on Monday 26th March, less than 48 hours before we were due to meet them. You can read this offer letter here. They key points of the offer are:

• The policy and aspiration to achieve parity of pay awards across the bargaining groups, in as far as it is within COSLA's control, has been re-affirmed by COSLA Leaders and a uniform pay offer is being made to the entire workforce, across all four of the local government bargaining groups.

• The pay offer is for one year and covers the period 1 April, 2018 to 31 March, 2019. The award will be back dated to the 1 April, 2018 application date.

• The offer has been aligned, for the most part, to be consistent with public sector pay policy in Scotland and is based on a 37 hour working week viz:-

- A 3% pay increase will apply to all employees earning up to £36,500.

- A 2% pay increase will apply to all employees earning £36,501-£80,000

- A flat rate increase of £1,600 to employees earning more than £80,000.

• The pay offer deviates marginally from public sector pay policy in relation to the Living Wage. It is proposed to increase the 'Scottish Local Government Living Wage' from its present level of £8.51 per hour to £8.77 per hour, thereby providing a full 3% increase.

• The offer provides for a 3% increase on all allowances that are normally agreed through the Scottish Joint Council (SJC), with the exception of the First Aid Allowance, which is under separate discussion between the Employers and Trade Unions Sides of the SJC.

• The employer has stated that pay offer is being made against a backdrop of a challenging settlement for local government and continued cost pressures for councils. They state that no additional monies have been made available in the 2018/19 local government settlement for this pay award, consequently, COSLA Leaders have stated that the offer now put to the various trade unions across the four bargaining groups is the best and final offer which can be made for this year.

Whilst the employer termed this is a best and final offer we discovered that they had, at the same time as sending this to us, also written to the Scottish Government pressing for parity across the bargaining groups (i.e. ensuring that whatever increase you get is the same as that achieved for Teachers or Craft workers) and asking that if the Scottish Government was so minded to give any one group of workers a higher increase that this that they provide the necessary funding to ensure that this extends to all Local Government bargaining groups.

Our Response:

Your UNISON representatives met with the other trade unions' representatives prior to meeting with the employer. All of the SJC Trade Unions agreed that we should 'note' the employers offer, their representations to the Scottish Government and that we should make our own representations to the Scottish Government in pursuit of our full claim. This position was put to the employer verbally and in writing on the 28th March 2018 - you can read this letter here. - and we wrote jointly to Derek Mackay MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution, pressing the issue of parity and calling for additional funding for COSLA to deliver an increase which addressed both the cost of living and an element of restoration - you can read that letter here.

The objective in doing both of these things was two-fold - to call on the Scottish Government to provide COSLA with additional funding to meet our claim and to keep the employer at the negotiating table.

As the trade union representing by far and away the largest number of workers in Local Government we are conscious of our responsibility to explore all available avenues open to us before coming to you with a recommendation to accept or reject the offer before us. We know that taking industrial action is not an easy option - we would only ever ask you to do this if we thought there was no possible alternative.

It is unfortunate that the GMB have chosen to ballot on a recommendation to reject, with a view to taking industrial action, before those avenues are exhausted, however that is a decision for them. As far as your UNISON representatives are concerned we will always be guided by what we believe is in the best interests of our members - there is a window of opportunity here that we believe we should explore before taking a view on whether we have an offer we could recommend to you in a ballot. That may take a couple of weeks and that window of opportunity may prove fruitful, or it may not, but we believe we have a responsibility to explore it before making a recommendation to you.

Next Steps:

The next meeting with the employer is on the 4th May 2018 and we would hope to have had a response from the Scottish government by then. As soon as we have that we will be in a better position to know if there is any more money available to improve the offer that is currently before us and we will get in touch then with more information for you.

In the meantime we will continue to work with our trade union colleagues on a co-ordinated approach to lobbying the Scottish Government and your employer in pursuit of our full claim.

Pay Survey:

Special thanks to all 9,263 members who participated in the Pay claim survey - you have given us some very useful data on what you think about pay and what action you are prepared to take in support of our claim that we can use in our deliberations about how we handle the current negotiations. In the coming days each UNISON branch will receive a breakdown of the survey responses for their branch and will start to build on that information to target their campaign strategies going forward.
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