1st Tier Joint Consultative Committee (Local Government Employees and Craft Operatives)
15 April 2005
IRVINE, 15 April 2005 - At a Meeting of the 1st Tier Joint Consultative Committee (Local Government Employees and Craft Operatives) of North Ayrshire Council at 2.00 pm.
Councillors David Munn, David O'Neill and Samuel Taylor (North Ayrshire Council); C Turbett, S Herd, P Crosthwaite and F Boyle (UNISON); H O'Neill (T&GWU); and F Minnery, A Smith and P Houston (GMB).
J M Macfarlane, Assistant Chief Executive, C McBreen, Principle Health and Safety Adviser, S Ferguson, Personnel Manager, W Turpie, Senior Personnel Officer and C Irvine, Safety Adviser (Personnel); and J Bannatyne, Corporate and Democratic Support Officer (Chief Executive's).
Councillor Munn in the Chair.
Apologies for Absence
Peter McNamara and Alan Munro (North Ayrshire Council); Tracy Dalling (UNISON); and Sean O'Reilly (T&GWU).
Agenda Item 1
The Minutes of the Meeting of the Committee held on 24 September 2004 were confirmed.
2. Single Status Agreement - Update
Submitted report by the Assistant Chief Executive (Personnel) on progress in the implementation of the Single Status Agreement on which a number of alterations to terms and conditions of service for employee groups have already been agreed.
It was noted that discussions on a revised Pay and Grading Structure and on further harmonisation of terms and conditions are continuing. It was stated by Council representatives that there will be a difficult challenge to both sides in reaching an agreement that has minimal detrimental impact on the earnings of individual employees whilst minimising the cost to the Council.
The Committee noted that following detailed negotiations, which commenced in April 2004, agreement was reached on the discontinuance of bonus schemes for groups of employees from Cleansing, Grounds Maintenance, Cemeteries, Disposal, Transport and Roads. The agreement was signed on 23 March 2005 and has been implemented from 1 April 2005. This change will go some way to mitigating the impact of equal pay challenges.
The trade union representatives expressed the view that there has been a positive outcome to the negotiations to date and that the Working Group Format which has been applied should be retained. The Council's representatives confirmed their desire to continue to work with the trade unions with a view to advancing reaching a joint agreement with the trade union side in relation to single status.
3. Local Government Pension Scheme - Consultation on Possible Scheme Changes
Submitted report by the Assistant Chief Executive (Personnel) on consultation currently being undertaken by the Government in respect of proposed changes to the Local Government Pension Scheme.
In September 2004 the Scottish Pensions Agency sought comments on a proposal to revise the SLGPS regulations in line with Amendment Regulations issued for England and Wales which were to be effective from 1 April 2005. It was anticipated that these changes would be effective in Scotland from 1 April 2006. The Amendment Regulations for England and Wales have now been revoked pending further consultation and the consultation period for Scotland has been extended. In October 2004 the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister issued a further Green Paper in England and Wales which has also been issued for consultation in Scotland. The consultation papers are in response to the Government's stated commitment to modernise the LGPS. They have been issued against a background of escalating employment contributions, a reduction in pension fund reserves and an increase in the number of people receiving pension against the number of active contributors to the pension fund. The actuaries have indicated that if no action is taken the current pension funds may find that they are unable to meet the Financial Standards laid down for occupational pension schemes.
The report outlined the schemes in their present format and gave details of the proposals contained in the Amendment Regulations for England and Wales. Key issues include the abolition of the Rule of 85, actuarial reductions (30% males - 27% females irrespective of service) for anyone opting to retire between 60 and 65, with interim arrangements which will apply until 2013, and raising the earliest age for an employee to access pension benefits from 50 to 55 years.
The Green Paper, currently out for consultation, contains a number of central issues for discussion, details of which were given in the report. Subject to the outcome of the consultation exercise the Government intends to have the new scheme provisions in place for April 2007, coming into force in April 2008.
The unions confirmed that they had responded the closing date for consultation submissions in Scotland is 25 May 2005. They suggested that the Council's response should take a balanced view of the proposals and requested that the unions be provided with a copy. They also indicated their willingness to provide a copy of their consultation response for information. The Council representatives confirmed that the Council has not yet formulated its response to the consultation and indicated their willingness to share the views of the Council with the unions. The unions made reference to the tripartite arrangements set up for England and Wales involving negotiations between central government, local government and the trade unions on the pension scheme proposals. They asked whether a similar arrangement could be introduced for Scotland. The Leader of the Council undertook to raise the matter with COSLA.
The Committee agreed (a) that the Council and the unions provide for each other copies of their respective responses to the consultation; (b) that the Council approach COSLA regarding the possibility of setting up negotiations on the proposals between central government, local government and the trade unions similar to those agreed for England and Wales; and (c) to note the position meantime.
4. Statutory Performance Indicators - Employee Absence Statistics
Submitted report by the Assistant Chief Executive (Personnel) on the Council's performance during 2004/05 in respect of the Statutory Performance Indicators (SPI) relating to the management of sickness absence. Details of the Council's performance data for previous years, the 2003/04 Scottish average figure and statistics for the first three quarters of 2004/05 were provided in Appendices to the report.
The overall absence rate of 5.4% for 2003/04 compares to a Scottish average of local authorities of 5.3%. Although marginally above the Scottish average the 2003/04 figure is stable compared with 2002/03 and shows significant improvement against earlier years. Full Council figures for the first three quarters of 2004/05 have been constant at 5.2%. The Scottish average figures for local authorities are not available at present but the 5.2% shows an improvement over the 2003/04 figures. During the first three quarters of 2004/05 there were a total of 906.5 absence days recorded for reportable industrial injuries. This represents 0.1% of work days available.
Within the various employee categories the figures have remained consistent during 2004/05. The former APT&C Staff and Chief Officers group has varied between 5% and 4%, Craft Operatives between 6.3% and 6.6% whilst the Teachers group has fluctuated with the quarters ranging from 3.1% to 4.1%. Sickness absence levels continue to be monitored and remedial action taken to reduce absence throughout the Council and systems and processes supporting the management of sickness absence continue to be reviewed and developed. Support for individual employees continues to be provided through Occupational Health and counselling where appropriate.
The Assistant Chief Executive advised that absence levels were particularly at high levels within Social Services and Catering and Cleaning Services, and that these would be the subject of more detailed scrutiny and management intervention with a view to effecting improvement.
The union, whilst accepting the difficulties in getting employees back to work, emphasised the need for the underlying causes of stress related illnesses to be investigated to allow corrective action to be taken. They emphasised the need for recognition to be given to the working environment being a contributory factor to manual workers sickness and absence.
The Committee agreed (a) that future reports should provide more detailed information on the causes of absences; and (b) to note the report.
5. Protection of Children (Scotland) Act 2003
Submitted report by the Assistant Chief Executive (Personnel) on the current position regarding the Protection of Children (Scotland) Act 2003.
The Act was effective from 10 January 2005 and requires the Council to establish designated 'childcare' posts which fall within the Act and also to implement the changes required to recruitment and selection procedures to ensure compliance with the Act. A key component of the Act is the establishment of a Disqualified for Work with Children list (DWCL), and details of the main aspects of the Act and definitions of childcare positions were summarised in Appendices to the report. There is, however, until further notice a delay in the implementation of the section of the Act relating to the checking of existing staff. As a result the offence of keeping someone, who is on the list, in employment in a childcare position is yet to be enacted.
Childcare positions within various services of the Council have been identified and listed in the Council's Computerised Human Resource Information System (CHRIS) to meet the requirements of the Act. There is no access to the DWCL by the Council other than through Disclosure Scotland.
The Council is also required by law to refer an employee who is dismissed, to Scottish Ministers and an appropriate procedure for this will require to be developed. The report also gave details of the various ways in which the Act has affected the Council's recruitment and selection process. The Act has also resulted in a number of changes to the Council's policies and procedures and has resulted in the identification of 3,700 staff as being in childcare positions. It was reported also that there will likely be a requirement for positions of retrospective referrals in respect of all existing employees of the Council.
6. Efficient Government
The Assistant Chief Executive (Personnel) tabled, for information, reports entitled (i) Efficient Government: Update and Impact; and (ii) Best Value Review Procurement: Summary of Phase 1 together with background information on Efficient Government provided by COSLA, which had previously been submitted to the Council.
The Scottish Executive Plan for Efficient Government, launched in November 2004, sets out a five year programme to attack waste, bureaucracy and duplication in the Scottish Public Sector. The Executive expects local government to achieve £325m of the savings target for 2007/08. This will be achieved by cuts in the overall Scottish Executive grant to local authorities over the next three years, cuts in funding of specific programmes eg the Supporting People Programme, savings achieved through Modernising Government Fund and Efficient Government Fund, and efficiency savings arising from better procurement. The Scottish Executive has allocated £60m to an Efficient Government Fund (EGF) to invest in projects with the potential for significant savings. This fund will be merged with the Modernising Government Fund in 2006 and the Council is currently involved in the submission of a number of bids for funding. The Council have agreed the creation of an efficiency programme and have appointed two new business analyst posts on a temporary basis, to review and design the Council's business processes.
In December 2002 the Corporate Policy Committee agreed that a Strategic Best Value Review of Procurement be undertaken with the first phase involving a examination of routine purchasing across the Council. The overall conclusion of the Review was that the Council needs to improve its approach to procurement to address weaknesses associated with procurement management processes and collaboration. Accordingly, the Council have approved the establishment of a Corporate Procurement Unit the objective of which is to put in place a Council wide Procurement Strategy and Policy, to co-ordinate procurement activity, and to drive down the costs associated with procurement and generate efficiency savings.
7. Health and Safety Strategy and Policy
Submitted report by the Assistant Chief Executive (Personnel) on the revised Council Health and Safety Strategy which lays out a framework of policy development, organisation of resources, hazard identification and risk assessment, planning, monitoring and audit.
Key proposals within the policy include the establishment by the Council of a Corporate Health and Safety Group through which the Council will engage with all relevant trade unions on the Corporate Health and Safety Action Plans and monitoring of the management framework. Service Planning Groups will be established in each of the four Council services with trade union representation on each. A Corporate Health and Safety Action Plan for 2005/06 has also been prepared and will be circulated. The Council will introduce a single general Health and Safety Policy which will replace all previous individual service policies. The Council's Corporate Management Team will oversee, direct and monitor the key aspects of this policy to ensure effective implementation. A training needs analysis will be undertaken to assess training requirements for relevant individuals. It is proposed that the four Service Planning Groups will meet before the end of May 2005 and trade union nominations to these groups have been invited. The unions undertook to ensure that all outstanding responses for nominations are submitted at the earliest possible opportunity.
The Committee agreed (a) that every effort be made to ensure full participation in the strategy throughout the Council; and (b) to note the position meantime.
8. Employee Accident Statistics: Monitoring Report
Submitted report by the Assistant Chief Executive (Personnel) on employee injury accident statistics for the period 1 January 2005 to 31 March 2005.
The report gave details of 12 employee injury incidents reported in the first quarter in 2005, three of which are considered to be 'major'. Comparisons for employee injuries during the last three years show 14 (2002/03), 24 (2003/04) and 13 (2004/05). Injury statistics which were previously issued to Corporate Directors, Heads of Service and recognised trades unions will in future be submitted to the Health and Safety Planning Groups for distribution.
9. Date of Next Meeting
The next meeting of the 1st Tier Joint Consultative Committee (Local Government and Craft Operatives) will be held on Friday 24 June 2005 at 2.00 pm in Cunninghame House, Irvine.
The meeting ended at 3.45 pm.