What is it?
In 1997 the employers and the unions entered into an agreement to harmonise terms and conditions known as the Single Status Agreement. This was driven by a wish to address equal pay issues in local authorities, where some women had been getting paid less than some male colleagues.
As part of the 2004 Pay deal the unions and employers agreed to work together to implement a fair and equitable grading structure by 1st April 2007. DMBC has conducted a Job Evaluation exercise to try to achieve this.
State of negotiations
Last year many low paid women workers where paid compensation payments for the back pay element of any Equal Pay claims, however their current pay is still to be addressed.
The council are using a Job Evaluation exercise to rank jobs. The Job Evaluation scheme used by DMBC looks at nine different factors involved in a job, such as the working environment or skills and knowledge. You score points for these different factors, which are added together to give a total point score. These points are ranked and the list of jobs is then put to a pay spine to show what pay the job should receive.
What is clear is that this process produces winners and losers and unless DMBC are prepared to invest substantial money, which at this stage they are not, some members will inevitably face pay cuts.
The inequalities that exist in the current pay structure are not the fault of our members; therefore it would be unfair for them to face financial detriment, for historical pay anomolies in DMBC.
Pay Protection will be crucial if we are to come to any agreement, ensuring those who lose out through job evaluation don’t suffer financial hardship. DMBC previously offered 5 years pay protection, which was rejected by a branch meeting a few years ago. The employers are now offering only 2 years but this has been rejected by UNISON. DMBC has agreed to take this away and revisit any proposals on pay protection.
All-inclusive rates of pay are also being discussed in the negotiations. DMBC want to streamline the way they pay allowances & bonus payments to make it less complicated and payslips more understandable.
At this stage we are willing to look at the feasibility of all inclusive rates, however we are concerned that DMBC may use this exercise to give with one hand and take away with the other, from some of the low paid women workers who may benefit through job evaluation. If this is the case, we will resist any attempt to reduce allowance payments.
DMBC also want to discuss the introduction of contribution related pay, however no formal proposals have been tabled at this stage. An example of this may mean that people could be placed on a spot salary, only progressing to the next incremental point if they meet agreed targets, which are set by their manager in annual appraisals.
We believe that this is a recipe for continual conflict & will force workers to compete with each other every year. It is also the case that Contribution or Performance based pay may discriminate against groups of workers such as those who work part-time, have childcare commitments, disabilities or may have had periods of illness.
We do not believe that, “management by stress,” or forcing workers to enter into divisive competition with their colleagues is fair or acceptable.
If through the current negotiations we are unable to reach an agreement, the council have indicated they will impose the new pay structure. This means they will terminate everyone’s contracts and issue new ones incorporating their preferred new terms and conditions.
UNISON does not believe that, while DMBC tells us that they are negotiating in, “good faith,” they should also threaten to, “fire & re-hire,” the entire workforce! If this was to happen we would take legal advice and consider a legal challenge on behalf of our members as well as a possible ballot for industrial action.
At present DMBC is hoping to implement the new pay structure in two phases. The first phase will be everyone under scale 3, which they want to introduce by 1st April 2007. The second phase will be everyone above scale 3 and will be implemented a year later. We don’t believe the 1st April 2007 implementation date is achievable and have objected to a phased approach and are currently in discussion with the council on this issue.
Although we have entered into these negotiations in good faith we have made it clear to management they will need to invest considerable money into the new pay structure if there is to be any real possibility of an agreement.
We will not recommend any agreement, which we feel, sells out our members. If we get to the stage where we fail to agree we would have to consider what action we take to defend our members interests and strike action should not be ruled out. Ultimately any decision to accept a new agreement on pay and grading will be down to you the members.
There are monthly meetings planned to keep you up to date & the next one takes place on Feb. 15 2007 at The Earl of Doncaster Hotel at 5.30pm.