Sodexo come back to table as Minister responds to unions concerns
At the end of another full on week, and as reported in BR 88-2015, the probation unions have now secured further talks with Sodexo on their early severance scheme. The discussions will take place this Monday and Tuesday have come about as a result of a meeting between the NNC Joint Secretaries the parties, and the MOJ contract compliance directorate.
To recap on how we have got to where we are, members will recall that Sodexo and the unions were directed to enter into negotiations about Sodexo's plans to offer a severance package which had initially been presented as an attempt to vary the terms of the Enhanced Voluntary Retirement Scheme. The unions entered into those talks in good faith but Sodexo decided to offer a voluntary severance scheme in its place which they have refused to improve.
The position has become even more complicated now that we have received a positive response from the Secretary of State to the letter that we sent following our meeting with him last month. I will publish this at the earliest opportunity, but as it raises a number of issues which are central to Napo's approach to next weeks talks I am asking that members bear with us for a few more days.
Unions seek halt to Severance exercise
Given the issues that have arisen over these last few weeks and the Ministers interpretation of Sodexo's contractual responsibilities in his letter, the unions have asked Sodexo to pause all procedures on the severance programme for one month to allow for genuine negotiations. Disappointingly (but somewhat predictably) this was refused, hence our latest advice that members do not sign the settlement agreements yet (the generic document is being considered by our legal advisers).
Sodexo's approach to this whole episode has been a communications disaster to say the least; one which has caused massive confusion and resentment across the CRC workforce within the six contract areas. This was the principle reason for members agreeing to be asked to take part in a formal industrial action ballot.
We have insisted that the talks next week include:
- The interface between the proposed Voluntary Severance payment and release of pension for those aged over 55. The unions still maintain that Sodexo have got this wrong and that people are being induced to sign away their rights.
- Serious points of clarification over several aspects of the proposed settlement agreement and the totally inadequate offer for financing individual legal advice
- The intention to change Compulsory Redundancy terms in Cumbria/Lancs and Northumbria CRC's.
- Crucially, Sodexo's contractual compliance with MoJ (Gove's letter appears to raise some questions about this and where it is clear that he has instructed his officials to monitor developments).
- The overall job cuts agenda and the unions concerns that this is unsustainable in terms of service delivery and public safety.
- Failure to apply SCCOG/NNC job evaluation procedures to redesigned structures/jobs.
- The TUPE implications of the transfer of functions to Sodexo Salford.
We have told Sodexo that we will continue to advise members who are involved in the expression of interest process add the caveat to all your communications that: "this is without prejudice to any improved outcomes that may emerge from the national negotiations I understand are still proceeding between Sodexo and the unions".
In light of Sodexo's track record for shifting the goalposts, none of us are able to predict what will happen in next weeks talks. We will give you as much definitive information as we safely can, but please bear in mind that our priority is bringing the CRC employers and Sodexo into territory in which we hope it may be possible to find some form of accord.
As always we enter this process in good faith, but remain ready to seek redress via industrial action if members believe that this remains the only other option. Its time for Sodexo to start resolving the mess that they have created.
You can help by sticking with Napo, supporting the work and efforts of your local representatives and telling others why they should sign up with us.
More news on a range of issues will follow later this week