UNISON has already expressed our concern that no “window of opportunity” to volunteer for redundancy should open prior to the end of consultation (22nd September 2014). We have a number of concerns regarding the proposal. UNISON wishes to draw your attention to the fact that there are consequences for the proposed scheme upon those staff that remain.
There is a duty upon you as a single employer under the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (TULR(C)A), to consult with trade unions regarding the subsequent impact of reduction in staffing upon service areas and those staff that remain.
Our expectation is therefore that such consultations must take place prior to the approval to release any staff under the proposal. This should by necessity include full public consultation, where a service to the citizens of Coventry may cease, particularly in light of the statement in 3.1 of the document, “they are aware of the potential for some non-statutory services to undergo substantial restructuring or even to cease operation”.
UNISON do not believe that the current “consultation” discharges your statutory duty under section 188(4) of the Act (TULR(C)A 1992). We have verbally requested earlier in the consultation that management consider, as alternatives to redundancy, the following steps:
• Review and reduce honoraria payment across all council service areas but particularly in Place Directorate and Hay graded and other senior managers;
• Reduce use of agency workers;
• Immediately cease the employment and use of consultants;
• Review the use of the £11,000,000 underspend.
UNISON is particularly concerned at the lack of detailed information on how the £11,000,000 underspend was achieved and how it will be used, at a time when services are being reviewed or potentially ceased and our members face increasing stress at work because of reductions in staffing and freezing of vacancies. It is not clear, from the evidence provided thus far, that the £11,000,000 underspend is being used to avoid redundancy; rather a very small proportion is set aside to fund the proposed redundancies.
We would bring to your attention Middlesbrough v TGWU and UNISON 2002 (EAT) when considering the points we have raised. UNISON view it as essential that, before progressing any further in this process, meetings are convened with the trade unions to discuss the issues we raise here.
We are concerned about the impact potential impact of 2.2.3 which states in regard to the 50% enhancement “will need to be reviewed to assess viability of sustaining such enhancements for the future”, given this enhancement forms part of the Security of Employment Agreement.
UNISON hereby restates its position that as a trade union we have no intention of entering discussion of this agreement or any other that will detriment our members’ terms and conditions. Similarly UNISON does not accept the principle stated in the document (2.2.14) that you can simply “transfer resource from elsewhere”. This could potentially breach our members’ contract of employment, particularly if their right to consultation is not upheld or if management seek to remove redundancy rights.
UNISON does not accept the level of information offered in 5.1, which sees the employer proposing to make staff redundant, now based on challenges foreseen by “broad financial planning assumptions”, assumptions that may prove inaccurate.
We would ask what the council is going to do to prevent more staff from becoming ill through stress, when currently stress depression and anxiety accounts for approximately 24% of sickness absence across the council? UNISON believe this is a consequence of 4 years of reductions in staffing, freezing of posts but no reduction in expectation upon staff or services. It is of great concern to UNISON to see a rise in issues relating to capability of staff, when there has been an obvious challenge in many of our workplaces in regard to our capacity to achieve unreasonable expectations.
UNISON are concerned that, by agreeing broad and vague statements that relate to our service provision, agreements and terms and conditions in this document, the employer may seek to render further discussion meaningless, in effect invalidating our rights under the disputes procedure. Whilst recognising democratic processes we would expect full and proper consultation prior to any Cabinet or council decisions.
Finally, the authority should undertake a full Equality Impact Assessment, prior to the agreement to release any staff, including those in the bumped pool, to ascertain a clear picture of the impact of this scheme on both staff and public alike.
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