Updates from your negotiating teams: London and south east

Updates from your negotiating teams: London and south east

Claire Dent, negotiations executive

Negotiators in discussion

I have been talking to local authorities and multi-academy trusts (MATs) and below is a quick round-up of my areas. Common themes have included transfers of undertakings (TUPE) and reorganisations and restructures.     

Local authorities

Barking and Dagenham is consulting on proposals to transfer its school improvement staff over to a not-for-profit organisation via TUPE. Prospect does not hold recognition and so our consultation has been challenged, but I have reminded them of the advice from the Local Government Association on the need to consult with Soulbury unions and I’m hopeful this may encourage dialogue.

Brook Learning Trust is an academy consisting of three schools in the Kent area. I have obtained formal recognition after a recent meeting and will be looking to build membership.

Croydon was considering another restructure of its remaining school improvement service and possibly TUPE-transferring these remaining staff over to Octavo, the trading service independently run from the local authority that already delivers some school improvement services in the borough. However, due to concerns raised by staff that the service was not “fit for purpose” these proposals have been suspended since December. We are awaiting further developments.

Ealing has recently invited staff to a meeting to discuss a further restructure. I have been invited to get involved in the discussion.

Hampshire has proposed several changes to its services but currently no Prospect members are affected. I arranged a members’ meeting earlier in the year and am assured that there are no concerns among our members in this area.

I met senior HR colleagues at Hertfordshire at the end of last year to agree a new recognition agreement.

Kent continues its plans to move most of its education and children services into a separate company wholly owned by Kent County Council. All affected staff are to be TUPE-transferred over and their Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) membership has been guaranteed.

Members have become increasingly concerned as details of this transfer have become clearer. The new director of children services, Matt Dunkley, met with joint union representatives last month, but could not give us firm reassurance on a number of issues.

It is not clear whether the new employer will obtain recognition under the modification order and therefore whether transferring staff can maintain their continuous service. There are also moves to allow recognition of the main negotiating unions only, despite the fact that most of the staff transferring are not members of these unions and the new company is wholly owned by the local authority and should continue to recognise the Soulbury unions. The latest development has been a decision made by management to delay the implementation of this proposal until September to allow for further consultation.

Personal cases

I have had several personal cases involving harassment and bullying, either towards my members or, more worryingly, unsubstantiated claims that my members are bullying colleagues while in the process of managing staff.

These cases can be time consuming, and rarely result in a satisfactory outcome for either party. Quite often both parties are left with feelings of betrayal and mistrust. I always advise in the first instance to try and resolve these situations informally and by mediation if possible, but each case is dealt with on its merits.

I am also supporting a member who has been off on long-term sickness due to the failure of their employer, a London local authority, to put in place all the support measures recommended by the government’s Access to Work scheme. This has resulted in a deterioration of the member’s physical condition and also affected their mental health and well-being.

The local authority now seems to accept that the member cannot hope to return to work until all equipment is supplied and reasonable adjustments have been made to working hours. However, they don’t yet accept that their actions have led to the deterioration of the member’s condition. I am hopeful the case can be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties involved through open and honest dialogue.

If you are affected by restructures or other issues in your workplace, or if you feel that you need individual support for any work-related issue, please contact the ECS group office in Wakefield on [email protected]