Councils look to end right to arbitration

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

Unison has said it will oppose the 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 talks
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.
Employers want 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

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. However, the threat that either party can refer a matter to
arbitration concentrates minds,” said Unison head of local
government Malcolm Wing.

The issue will be discussed at a meeting on 23 October, but the
Employers’ Organisation letter gives the employers’ perspective on
the recently completed 2001 pay talks. It says that the government
decision to increase pay significantly in the NHS put the employers
in “an awkward position”. And it adds that although the local
government settlement was “far from excessive”, many councils had
trouble affording it and were predicting cuts in services.

The letter also reveals a split among employers with those in
larger urban authorities, particularly in the North, believing that
the 3 per cent award was too high while others feel it was the
minimum necessary to avoid a major dispute.

The Employers’ Organisation 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.

The Local Government Association has been asked to join the
Employers’ Organisation in lobbying the Department for Transport,
Local Government and the Regions.

In Scotland, reporters to the children’s panel are threatening
strike action after 95 per cent voted to reject a 2.5 per cent pay
increase. Unison members are seeking an 8 per cent increase and are
said to be “frustrated and fed up”. They were angered by claims
that low staff turnover showed they were happy with pay and

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.