As the third anniversary of the historic single status agreement for local government approaches, it is perhaps time to take stock. The agreement brought white-collar and blue-collar employees together into one national negotiating group, the National Joint Council for Local Government Services.
The intention of the national agreement, set out in the Green Book, is to provide a standard set of conditions under Part 2, with a national pay spine, but to leave it to councils and their trade unions to negotiate, as appropriate, local changes to other national
provisions under Part 3. Part 4 contains joint advice, including the controversial national job evaluation scheme.
There is no single right answer to the problems faced by councils. But there are lessons to be learned. From the national employers perspective there is a need for more help and advice to councils. Some felt that once the single status agreement had been reached in 1997, the national employers thought their job had been done. It was really only just beginning. For the Employers Organisation to retain credibility in this area, it must continue to develop its advisory services, and be prepared, as it increasingly is, to use the talents that lie in other organisations such as the regional employers organisations and the Society of Chief Personnel Officers.
The trade unions have the difficult task of ensuring the messages they send out at a national level are reflected by local representatives and officials. There is much evidence that this has not been the case.
Finally, councils, and especially their personnel specialists, must be prepared to take a more business-needs driven analysis of the options available to them before heading off into areas such as job evaluation without being sure of their overall objectives.