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NATIONAL BARGAINING SYSTEM NEEDS OVERHAUL, SAYS REPORT

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A radical overhaul of the national bargaining machinery is necessary if it is to remain relevant to councils, accor...
A radical overhaul of the national bargaining machinery is necessary if it is to remain relevant to councils, according to a new strategy document issued by the national employers this week.

The report proposes six new objectives for the employers to pursue in future negotiations with unions. These include a single set of terms and conditions for blue and white collar staff, a single negotiating forum and a common pay review date of 1 April. Towards a new employer strategy argues a move to single status for blue and white collar staff would remove artificial barriers between groups of employees and reduce administrative costs in areas such as payroll, industrial relations and staff communication. It also says the ability to offer a single career structure would make local government more attractive to young people. Proposals for single status employment are likely to be broadly welcomed by the local government unions. In recent years the harmonisation of terms between the two groups of staff has been a key negotiating demand of the blue collar unions.

The move would also reflect the breaking down of the boundaries between the two groups which happened on the staff side with the merger this year of NUPE, COHSE and NALGO to form Unison. The report accepts the proposal to distinguish between mandatory core conditions of service which all councils would be expected to follow and voluntary non core conditions is more controversial.

'A key consideration will be to what extent it will be possible to get national agreement with the unions to the principle that Part 2 conditions could be modified - or indeed not applied - locally', says the report. 'It may be necessary to agree nationally that such local variations would have to be the result of local agreements between the authority and the unions it recognises'.

The report proposes a common pay review date for the merged group of 1 April to fit with the start of the financial year. But if the settlement figure is to be built into budgets, negotiations would have to be completed by December or January, the report says. Currently the pay review dates for the white and blue collar groups are 1 July and 1 September respectively. Usually the negotiations drag on beyond these dates and settlements have to be backdated. The report, which has been endorsed by the three English and Welsh local authority associations, does not suggest a timetable.
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