As you will know from my previous post the negotiations with the council on the next round of settlements collapsed almost before they began. The reason for this is that the council does not wish to follow the agreement that it reached with us in February 2019 to settle the OUTSTANDING claims up to the end of March 2018.
When we reached agreement with GCC in February 2019 the council argued that it could only afford to settle the claims up to March 2018. And only for claims lodged before February 2019. It agreed then that it would revisit the position in 2021 when it expected to have completed the job evaluation study. It also insisted on what it called a “pause period” – this was an agreement not to submit any new cases until at least July 2019. This would enable the council to calculate the claims and sort out its borrowing based on that number. At the same time it refused to deal with some of the ALEO companies such as jobs and business.
After July 2019 GCC workers who had not got a claim in by January 2019 were able to submit new claims with us and the unions. There are about 4000 such new claims where people have service before march 18 but have not had any settlement payment for this period. This is priority group 1.
THE CLAIM PERIODS
Because the council is still operating a discriminatory pay system (although it has never formally admitted this) there are several periods of claim that we need to discuss with them :
Period 1 – all the claims that go up to March 2018 and haven’t had a settlement yet
Period 2 – claims from march 2018 to date (possible “interim payment” )
Period 3 From now until a new pay system is agreed and implemented
Period 4 – claims after the new pay system starts and especially any new pay protection period.
The council only wanted to discuss period 1 at this stage. This is where things broke down.The councils position is that they are not bound by the previous agreement and therefore all issues are back on the table and we must begin fresh negotiations from the start.
As a purely legal issue the council are correct, the previous agreement is not a precedent and it is not legally binding on GCC or on us. However this is like a toddler refusing to share toys screaming that “it’s my toy“! It might be your toy but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t share. In the same way, the fact that the agreement is not binding does not mean that you can’t or shouldn’t choose to use it. Like a good dad I say -“Stop being silly and play nicely”
Maybe others can think of a better analogy. But the point is, the fact that they’re not “obliged” to do something doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing to do. Using the previous settlement for the same period is the right thing to do, I think.
WHY HAVE THE COUNCIL DONE THIS?
The truth is that we do not know.
It’s possible that the lawyers got into a room and looked at it purely from a lawyers point of view and took a decision that they were “right“ . This would be unbelievably blinkered and stupid but it’s certainly a possibility.
Alternatively it’s “the new sheriff in town” syndrome. As you may know the previous negotiations were led by the old Head of Legal, who is now riding off into the sunset with a big fat redundancy cheque and a new pension. A new person has been promoted into her place and yesterday was their first time round the negotiating table. Maybe they felt the need to stamp their authority or maybe they felt the last deal was rubbish and they weren’t going to be endorsing that kind of foolishness. Who knows. It’s a certainty , in my view , that if they had been present at the previous negotiations they wouldn’t be wanting to start from scratch all over again. Nobody would want to go through that pain twice. It really would another level of the circle of Hell.
An alternative view is that the council has “buyers remorse” – that is they regret some of the compromises they made and want to have another go. This is probably around some of the agreed job/comparator matches. On the one hand this is good thing – it means that nobody “won” and it was a fair deal if both sides know they gave up something.
Or it means the council thinks we got too good a deal and regret it.
But this is daft – picking on only one bit of the deal is like picking at a string on the jumper – the more you pull the more comes away and soon you have no jumper just a pile of wool. This inability of the officers to see the bigger picture drives me nuts. It’s so shortsighted.
What we do know is that its not the money – the council has more than enough money borrowed to fund periods 1 and 2.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
It means that the council wants unspecified groups of workers to get less than their colleagues for the same period of service. It means that they want to divide and rule. They might want to say, for example, home carers can get the same money but support for learning workers must get less this time. ( I stress this is just an illustration, it’s not what the council have said. They refuse to be this specific)
They might say 80% can get the same but the other 20% must get less.
But they wont tell us who the 20% they want to target are. We invited them to do so but they refused.
We think that is wrong – what do you think? Would you think it ok if you got the same but others got less? Or you get less and others get the same?
LEARN FROM THE PAST
The council new negotiating team have not learnt from the past IMO- they have forgotten the nightmare of 40 odd pointless meetings before the strike. They want to do that all over again? No thanks. But that’s what “fresh negotiations” would mean.
And where are the politicians? Nowhere to be seen. Susan Aitken is always taking credit for the settlement (without giving us any ) but runs away as soon as we ask her to actually get involved. And where are the voices of all the councilors? Struck dumb it seems.
Let’s be frank – period 1 is the easiest of the 4 periods – if they can’t handle this one then god help us for periods 2 – 4. I genuinely don’t think they have even considered these periods yet.
This is not to say there aren’t difficult issues to discuss. There are, such as the jobs that weren’t included last time and need comparisons agreed. But the previous agreement needs to be the basis of the settlement for this period.
It’s only fair.
Ps don’t ask me which jobs they are targeting for less. We don’t know.
But otherwise feel free to comment or question.