7th November 2016
This is a flash report on the ACAS talks to keep you informed in brief of what is going on as far as we are able to report at this time. It has been a hectic few weeks of preparations and readiness for the whole region with both our sister Unions Unison and GMB.
Many of you will know when we last attended the well turned out branch meeting at Poole and your JNCC reps were going onto the first of the ACAS meetings. Oddly the Trade unions attended alone.
Talks are now ongoing and I will cover the issues we are raising so you have some idea. Nothing is lost yet and as things progress we get more clarity of the situation but nothing that changes our claims. .
The first day when both sides attended provided both sides with some headings to which engagement of the sides should try to focus our collective minds with a view to resolve. This produced a series of headings we have now started to engage with, however many of the issues, and the chosen process activities of the employer have made things difficult to resolve as we see them. They have advanced employment activities outside of following appropriate redundancy procedures. This failure to follow known contractual agreements effectively render aspects of your terms and conditions unworkable and in our opinion any dismissals via compulsory redundancy will be automatically unfair. Something we encourage all our members to seek to claim redress.
What we have established is that talks will continue this week, and I am pleased to say that Ian Lawrence Napo General Secretary has managed to secure the identity of the real employer Aurelius and we have requested that a genuine employer come to the ACAS table with the appropriate authority and who is able to form agreements and process issues by their own decision other than what we have seen so far. We wait to see if an employer with appropriate control and ownership actually turns up. What we want from this is a detail on who has taken authority for the conduct and oversight of Working links. Whether Aurelius are aware and endorse or direct the Working links fiasco that has beset our area and the failures to adopt and follow appropriate terms and conditions.
Well why would you? Many members have been contacting me and wider branch officials seeking information. It is understood that many members are just not clear of the grounds for the severance request the employers have invited you to engage. The issues this situation has beset us all is complicated, but as we have as stated before, the matter for early VOLUNTARY severance (which is effectively a resignation) remains a matter for volunteers. It is not a process contained within your terms and conditions yet it is something this employer has determined is what they want to offer you alongside their explanation documents. Nothing in this honours your pensionable position fairly or your EVR settlement rates or your redundancy terms and condition rates. Axing Jobs in the number they are seeking places the public at risk and these are matters that we are taking forwards both in ACAS and by return to the incredible MOJ position on the contract management.
So we are all clear NONE of the awful Working Links offers has been agreed with your Unions. We do not accept the process is a legitimate reflection of your current terms and conditions. The unions are continuing to argue the terms of the contract are being breached by the imposition of premature cuts to staffing.
Members will be aware other CRCs have different redundancy terms. Before the Unions argue the position of the entitlements there has to be genuine proposals for compulsory dismissals. At this time members in the unions have better chance of combating the disastrous approach taken so far by ensuring members stay with their Unions and non members apply now. Stay within your posts and wait to see what efforts the employers attempt in reneging on your entitlements under any compulsory process. Their claims of looking to achieve a fair process is not demonstrated in practice. You already know this as you will all no doubt be aware of colleagues who have left or are leaving with the agreed EVR terms. Why should you be offered any less. There are many employment case law examples that support the unions claim.
The Unions position is to maintain secure jobs, proper roles and current terms throughout the life of this employer’s contract. It is increasingly made difficult as the employers have imposed an unrealistic deadline of the 31 03 16 to be clear of a massive number of staff.
Workloads and staffing have not been shared with the Unions on clear costings of budget that would, and should show why these cuts are required, at present sought for in your voluntary severances. The Union leadership are surprised at the disingenuous way the employers approached early retirements with an aggressive negative reversal on what early retirement actually means. Early retirement should only come with proper and established benefits anything less is unreasonable and sub standard to our usual terms. Holding out for your terms places the problems back at the employers door. We need to establish the original budgeting and costings because the unions assert Working Links could never really have afforded the contract from the beginning without having first agreed in that contract with MOJ that mass dismissals would occur WAV banding changes or not. The buy in from Aurelius does not exempt the employers liabilities.
The Unions position is that all early retirements to assist or avoid compulsory redundancies are awarded without any penalties. That early retirement means members should be assisted even before their 55th year of age without reductions as a matter of fairness. That agreement on this might ease some wider member concerns. In any case the management have not delivered on an appropriate equality impact assessment to discover the real business and fairness risk issues to all staff. There has been no demonstrative planned consultative way that the employers could and should have worked to a gradual staff reduction plan working within voluntary means only Nothing from the employer to demonstrate any carful considerations.
Working Links continue to claim they cannot afford to pay the EVR; yet this is not a matter that bears any relation to the contractual obligations upon them and contained in the Amended and Restated Services Agreement to which they do not accept the Union’s interpretations of your contractual rights. It is this matter that either needs to be determined properly within the MOJ contract services or providing enough members sit tight and insist on their terms your unions will get these issues legally tested and ensure appropriate Employment Tribunals determine the extent to which our current position is protected for the future. Subject to appropriate NEC determinations on cases that we bring through NAPO process and through the legal claims process. Although on these matters of group action we shall be working closly with Unison and GMB.
Aurelius new employer or bank money roll?
The Unions position has been to discover the value and ability of Aurelius as the new employer to both properly fund the contracts for which it should have showed due diligence to know its liabilities when it bought Working Links. Also to look to ensure they establish appropriate contact and undertake negotiations with the recognised Unions. We seek to ensure that in the new corporate chain we establish the ownership of all our members liabilities that the employer has to cover. It is a matter of record that if Aurelius will not pay the due EVR settlements as its ownership implies we will continue in the SSW branch as will Wales and Weston to ensure we establish exactly who owns the liability and continue to press our union leadership to take all appropriate cases forwards to legal claim.
The Innovation Wessex issue
It seems appropriate to remind members that Innovation Wessex was set up to be independent and funded externally from Working Links. To date we have had no reply to the General Secretary's letter making formal inquiry. Much information coming in has leant towards disproving the Working Links claims that Innovation Wessex is independent. Our point is that the operational planning and endorsements that are claimed as independent to deliver the new operational hubs has not had independent examination. Napo and the wider Unions have expressed concerns the model on staffing alone will place the public at incredible risk whilst never having been properly assessed. This continues to be the situation whilst Innovation Wessex remain funded under Working Links. Despite this separate sideshow still no sign to the Unions of the overall service design, despite it being agreed withdrawn then agreed again and still withdrawn only the last stating we could not see it. That is odd because we are entitled under the collective bargaining requirements, and of course consultation to prevent and mitigate redundancies while section S188 notices are live.
It seems obvious to us that any major change will alter staff roles. Where this variation to your contracts becomes an obvious step too far be sure to raise this amongst all other matters with your local branch activist. What we all need to keep in mind is we are working towards ensuring work and workloads are well tested, approved and take account of all health and safety requirements. That work is managed and the fear of issues arising like SFO are well understood in terms of process free of any blame culture. Aggressive target culture adoption and the ingress of the constant capability or disciplinary threats for those hard working staff.
Just before we sign off this report we take a little look back from almost a year ago to issues that we raised to members and to remind you of where we are.
Employers must provide workplace representatives with information about:
- The reasons for the redundancies
- The numbers and the categories of employees at risk of redundancy or job changes as a result of restructuring
- How many agency workers are in the organisation, where they work and which jobs they do
- The proposed method of selecting individuals for redundancy
There are minimum periods during which representatives must be consulted:
- If an employer is proposing to make 100 or more employees redundant, consultation must start at least 45 days before the first dismissal is due to take effect.
- It is therefore possible for consultation to last longer than 30 days or 45 days where this is necessary to exhaust ways of avoiding the need for redundancies.
- No redundancy notices can be issued to individuals until collective redundancy consultation has been completed.
- Employers and union representatives can agree longer consultation periods.
Well there we are, nothing has stopped the employers continuing to ignore all the statutory requirements upon them and it is certainly our intention to ensure they are held to lawful account at some point. Stay with it members it is your job and you have employment rights!
Finally we return to ACAS this week on Wednesday and no doubt beyond and will keep you posted. For those of you looking into severance get your resignation figures if that is what you desire, but keep in mind at no point do you have to accept the offer. The branches and national Unions will continue to seek to preserve your conditions but this can only be more realistically achieved as long as you stay in the game to help us to protect you. Whatever you decide this battle is a long way from ending and in the meantime stay in your union and recruit all non-members so together we are stronger and united against what is increasingly becoming an incredible betrayal of all staff.
Dino Peros NAPO SSW Branch Chair JNCC Rep Denice James JNCC Rep