Trade Union Bill Committee

Written evidence submitted by Leeds City Council (TUB 09)

Summary

The Trade Union Bill 2015-16 provisions proposed by the Government represent a fundamental change to the way Trade Unions will function in the United Kingdom, inevitably having a significant impact on relations between Leeds City Council and its approximately 15,000 employees, with 12,600 full time equivalents (FTE).

Industrial relations between the Council and employees particularly since 2010 have been productive, highlighting a strong working relationship even with the need to generate unprecedented savings. The importance of maintaining key communications with Trade Union members has not only enabled this Council to manage budget reductions, but to also agree successful results such as the Early Leavers Initiative (ELI) reducing headcount by more than 2000 and adopting a flexibility protocol where employees are redeployed in other areas of the Council avoiding compulsory redundancies.

The proposals to raise the ballot threshold will risk shifting the emphasis of Trade Union activity towards securing a mandate for formal strike action rather than engagement with the employer.

Furthermore, the necessity for this Bill to be implemented is challenged when the evidence from 2010, highlights the frequency of industrial action taken by trade union members is uncommon. Moreover, when this is ascribed to local level disputes, the numbers reduce even further.

The experience of Leeds City Council and its relationships with Trade Unions has been pivotal to ensure communication with our employees remains strong and importantly productive. The Government’s proposals put at risk the continuation of positive industrial relations, creating uncertainty and from our recent experience the effects of this change could be counterproductive.

Introduction

1.0 Leeds City Council is the second largest of the 36 metropolitan district councils in England in terms of both population and geographical area. The council is responsible for all local authority services within its boundaries. The estimated population of Leeds is 775,666 , with more than 170 languages spoken in the city. The Council’s gross spend (including Revenue and Capital) is £2.5bn annually.

 

1.1 Leeds City Council values are at the heart of everything we do. They inform the way we design and deliver our services and the way we all work and behave. The values are: Working as a team for Leeds, Being open, honest and trusted, Working with communities, Treating people fa irly and Spending money wisely .

Industrial Relations

2.0 Industrial relations with Trade Unions and Leeds City Council (LCC) have achieved successful results, throughout the process of negotiation and consultation, where communication has become pivotal to ensure both the Council and trade unions work closely together to maintain services and avoid compulsory redundancies, whilst responding to the Governments spending reductions. Strong communications have ensured we have reached positive results such as the following:

· Early Leavers Initiative (ELI) – This scheme was introduced to enable staff to leave the council on a voluntary basis where there was a need to reduce numbers in the interest of efficiency through an enhanced severance scheme. Currently, 2,100 people having left on ELI since 2010.

· Collective agreement to achieve savings on terms and conditions e.g. pay protection, expense claims and increasing flexibility, achieving savings around £15m.

· LCC provides key job finding support and exclusive access to internal vacancies to staff that are potentially at risk of losing their job, this is according to skills, pay and personal interest staffs are matched to vacancies. One example of this is the Talent Pool, affecting typically around 150 people, the majority of which are seeking new work as a precautionary move ahead of planned reductions. Furthermore, a smaller group of staff are supported more intensively as they have been given notice of redundancy. By matching people to jobs LCC has had less than 20 enforced redundancies over the last five years , holding the basic objective to find work for people who want to continue their employment. Central to the success of this approach has been cooperation trade unions, ensuring that decisions are on a trusting basis.

2.1 There has been limited disruption to services with regards to industrial action. Furthermore, industrial action has stemmed from primarily national disputes, with local disputes holding a very small number of people participating in formal action since 2010.

LCC Industrial action since 2010

3.0 The table referred to in Annex 1 demonstrates the number of industrial action since 2010 taken by Leeds City Council staff, accounting for six nationally and one local. Six national level industrial actions have taken place since 2010, regarding various issues including pension charges and pay and conditions.

3.1 The Parks and Countryside service strike action in 2014, demonstrated the only case of local industrial action at a local service level. However, this only was represented by four people participating in formal strike action.

3.2 The level of strike action activity is clearly extremely low and further demonstrates the strength in communication between the Council and its employees, avoiding mass industrial action, causing little service disruption.

Collective Agreements

4.0 Collective agreements both on a council wide basis and local service level have been made with our trade union colleagues over the years avoiding the need for industrial action. These have predominantly been around changes to terms and conditions of employment.

4.1 To achieve savings some of the changes collectively agreed include the closure of services with no or low demand over the Christmas/New Year period, reduction then removal of protected pay, changes to the Managing Workforce Change process, introduction of Managing Staff Reductions policy, changes to essential car user allowance/rates and the introduction of HMRC mileage rates for casual car users.

4.2 Since the first comprehensive spending review in 2010, we have achieved at least 5 council wide collective agreements with additional collective agreements at local service level, all through good work relations with our recognised trade unions which has also lead to a number of averted industrial action.

Deductions of Union membership fees by LCC

5.0 Salary deductions such as paying Council Tax, Give as you earn, Credit Unions and health care schemes are a very low cost being a convenience benefit for employees at LCC. The option to pay trade union fees should be seen in the same light. In Leeds we estimate that this costs under £5,000 per year; a negligible 41 pence per year per trade union member. Therefore, in order to achieve better employee relations, the Council will seek to continue salary deductions for trade union subscriptions as it recognises trade unions and sees a benefit to negotiating, consulting and communicating with trade unions.

October 2015

Annex 1

Industrial action since 2010

*This information is a quick overview and has not been sourced extensively due to the timeframe available. All instances of industrial action in the first table have been due to national issues outside the control of the LCC.

Year

National Level

Issue/subject

Strike y/n

2011 Nov 30

yes

Pension changes

yes

2012 Sept

Pay & Conditions

yes

2013 – October, 1 *

Yes

Teacher pay, terms and conditions and pensions provisions

yes

2014, July 10

yes

Pension changes

yes

2014 – October

yes

Pension changes

cancelled

2 0 12/15 *

Yes

Teachers pay, terms and conditions and pensions provisions

No – action short of strike action

Year

Local Service Level

Issue/subject

Strike y/n

2014

yes

Parks and Countryside service – Technicians - Support of a colleague

Yes – intermittent into 2015

· Schools industrial action not exhaustive

Prepared 14th October 2015