Trade Union Bill

Written evidence submitted by Councillor Doug Taylor, Leader of the Council, Enfield Council (TUB 51)

To Committee Members

1. I am writing to you as a Leader of Enfield Council to comment upon statements on, and provisions of, the Trade Union Bill and its implications for effective, and efficient, local bargaining, dispute avoidance and dispute resolution. I do so to impress upon you the significance of having arrangements and processes in place that ensure positive and mutually beneficial working arrangements at a local level.

2. Over time a framework has been developed in the UK to ensure that employee and employer interests are balanced. To do this employers need confidence that they can communicate with their employees in matters such as workforce planning, terms and conditions and policy matters with a legitimate expectation that feedback will be based on a considered and collective evaluation. Trade Unions perform the role of aggregating feedback and being able to guarantee that an employer proposition is more likely to be accepted. This tremendously enhances the stability and development of our organisation.

3. Normal UK employment legislation works on the principle of reasonableness between the employer and the employee. Matters of individual actions and facility arrangements are a reflection of local circumstances e.g reasonable time off for duties. In that context within the public and  private sector the law recognises that only the local employer can properly take a view on how to operate, which itself is of course subject to challenge and external adjudication, in tribunals. That principle has worked well to date and has been an assistance to good industrial relations.

4. With regard to individual issues, whether grievances or disciplinary in nature, individual employees benefit from, and the employer benefits from, an independent and professional support service to the employee. Our experience is this can weed out unnecessary and inevitably unsuccessful grievances but also ensures that, in terms of disciplinary issues, the best approach is taken by the employee. Ultimately this can save time and money for the employer.

5. In this context, facility time is a cost effective means of dealing with industrial relations matters. Particularly as my Council, along with other Councils, is restructuring and reducing the workforce the need for good industrial relations has never been more important. Reorganisation and redundancies inevitably will reduce morale and productively, unless handled effectively with a trusted voice for the employee. That is a crucial role for a trade union and contributes to harmonious industrial relations.

6. I understand that the Trade Union Bill has a resource power (Clause 13) which would permit a cap on each Council spend on facility time. It would seem rather farcical to expect a Council to develop efficient organisational structures, internal employee consultation and negotiating systems, and deliver million pound services to the public but deny its right to set the level of facility time appropriate to meeting these objectives. This can only reasonably be a local decision, based on experience and sound business planning.

7. With regard to deductions from payroll for Union fees (check off), I can understand the arguments that this was a cost to the public purse and should be avoided. But that is not the case. Employers levy a charge on Trade Unions for this facility which covers its costs. There is no economic argument for preventing check off, but there is a significant negative for employers if this was to happen.

8. I ask the Committee to consider these matters I have raised seriously and not act to interfere with the relationships that are developed at a local level. It is a matter of localism that determination of these matters should reside with the local employer and their recognised Trade Unions.

October 2015

Prepared 28th October 2015