Unison rejects plans to scrap arbitration

Public service union Unison has criticised plans by local
government employers to end the right to go to arbitration if pay
talks break down, writes Jonathan

Unison said it would oppose any such proposals because they
would undermine negotiations, and set the scene for a “big
set-piece national dispute”.

In a letter to council chief executives, the Employers’
Organisation for Local Government said it had decided to open
negotiations with the unions in order to remove “the right for
either side to refer a failure to agree to ACAS arbitration”.

“Unilateral arbitration as it stands is making the negotiating
process artificial and is unsustainable,” says the letter. The
employers organisation wants the framework for negotiations to be
changed “so that either side may call upon ACAS to help in a
dispute, but that neither side can force the other to arbitration
against their will”.

Unison – which represents 800,000 of the 1.3 million local
government workers – has objected to the proposals.

“The arbitration clause in our national agreement has never been
used,” said Unison head of local government Malcolm Wing. “However,
the threat that either party can refer a matter to arbitration
concentrates minds.”

The issue will be discussed at a meeting on 23 October, but the
EOLG’s letter gives the employers’ perspective on the
recently completed 2001 pay talks. The government decision to
increase pay significantly in the NHS put the employers in “an
awkward position”, says the letter.

As a result, the Local Government Association has been asked to
join the EOLG in lobbying the department for transport, local
government and the regions “to avoid a repeat of this year’s
situation … or at least to give us prior warning”.

The EOLG also points to the increasing gap between local
government pay levels and those in the private sector. “This is not
the best platform for persuading the workforce to improve
continuously,” it says.




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