Trade Union Bill

Written evidence submitted by Ann McCoy, Chair, North East Regional Employers’ Organisation (NEREO) (TUB 36)

Trade Union Bill

NEREO advises, supports and represents the 12 Councils in the North East region operating in the broad fields of human resource management and management practice.

Policy decisions are taken by an Executive Committee, of which I am Chair, comprising 15 elected members representing the 12 Councils.

At a meeting of the Executive Committee held yesterday members received a report on the Trade Union Bill and its implications for employee relations in local government. As a result, I was asked to write to all MP’s in the region as follows;

1. All councils in the North East region fully support the principles of collective bargaining both at national and local level.

2. All Councils in the region employ the vast majority of their staff under the "National Joint Council for Local Government Services" (NJC) terms and conditions of employment.

Part 1, "Principles", paragraph 3 of the NJC states;

"The NJC has a strong commitment to joint negotiation and consultation at all levels, and to this end encourages employees to join and remain in recognised unions. Co-operation between employers, employees and unions will help ensure the successful delivery of services. Local authorities are therefore encouraged to provide facilities to allow trade unions to organise effectively for individuals and collective representation."

3. Local government has suffered more through austerity measures than any other part of the public sector over the last few years and NEREO members agree that the only way in which Councils in this region have been able to manage the very significant reductions in budgets and, as a consequence, employee numbers, has been through the active involvement and support of the Trade Unions.

4. The Executive Committee believes the proposals within the Bill will seriously damage the ability of the Trade Unions to represent the interests of their members and work with councils for the benefit of the communities they serve. The Bill proposals most certainly run counter to the spirit of the wording within the NJC.

The report also included a letter to me from Beth Farhat, Regional Secretary of the TUC in which NEREO is asked to sign a statement from public sector employers. That was unanimously agreed and is as follows;

Statement

"The Trade Union Bill will give central government wide ranging powers to impose changes on how we choose to work with unions to manage relations in the workplace. Plans include:

• preventing public sector employers from running "check off" systems to deduct union subscriptions from the payroll;

• requiring all public sector employers to publish detailed annual reports recording how many union officials are employed by the authority, what proportion of the pay bill is allocated in total to union facilities and how much the public authority spends on specific union activities;

• controlling the amount of money each or any public authority can invest in collective bargaining and social partnership forums, on union health and safety reps and even union learning reps who work with employers to raise skills and training opportunities;

• revising contracts of employment and collective agreements which have been agreed by the public authority with their staff and unions;

• intervening to cap the amount of money each authority can spend on facility time.

We are surprised and disappointed that we are to lose the autonomy to take our own decisions around these important areas for employee engagement, particularly given the government’s rhetorical commitments to the localism agenda. We call on the government to think again on these plans."

The Executive Committee respectfully requests, therefore, your support for this statement and opposition to the progress of the Bill.

Finally, I will be taking other actions on this matter following yesterday’s meeting including writing to the Chairman of the Local Government Association, the Leader of its Labour Group and MEP’s on the basis that the Bill challenges the principles of "social dialogue" which are enshrined within the EC’s treaties.

October 2015

Prepared 28th October 2015