Although we were the last authority in Greater Manchester to finish our pay and grading review, we were the first to reach collective agreement with Unison, Unite and GMB and we believe the time we have all invested has been well worthwhile.
We are sending a message that the council wants to work with the trade unions to get the best for our employees.
The trade unions and the council officers involved have worked hard, committing huge amounts of time to achieving a process that is fair and a pay and reward scheme that is affordable, sustainable and minimises the impact on our employees.
The outcome hasn’t been positive for everyone but we can say that the outcomes were reached through a robust system and that they are owned jointly by the council and the trade unions.
How did we do it? The process of evaluating roles for each of the council’s 4,000 affected staff began back in 2003 and from the start both the unions and the council wanted to make this a joint process.
The desire for joint working led first to agreement by all parties on the local interpretation of the national job evaluation scheme. Then a Single Status Negotiation Group was established with regional representatives from each of the unions and council officers. This group jointly agreed points values for all roles throughout each stage of the review, at times meeting for up to 20 hours a week.
Four trades union stewards were also seconded to work full time with the newly established Pay and Reward team, ensuring employees were consistently and fairly represented at every stage from initial interviews to appeals. All training throughout the evaluation process was offered to both council staff and the trade union representatives to ensure a joint understanding of the complexities of developing a new pay and reward scheme.
Following the long process of evaluation, appeals and negotiation around final pay and conditions the council and trade unions reached the basis of a collective agreement in December. At this point trade union members were balloted on whether to accept the proposals and voted overwhelmingly to do so.
Don’t just take it from me – this is what Giovanna Holt, a GMB regional representative who was involved in the process from the very start, told me: “A key factor was the integrity of all parties, we all respected the confidentiality of the process and trusted each other’s intentions - if we said something would be delivered, it was done.
“Our views were not always the same but, by focusing on our shared goal, we didn’t allow negotiations to stall at any point. The process doesn’t end here, we will continue to be involved with the evaluation process making sure it remains fair and equitable. We don’t want to be in the same position in the future.”
Nor do we. Now that the full council has backed the agreement, a commitment to working together continues and the negotiating group will be evaluating all amended or newly created posts in the future.
Brian Lord (Lib Dem), corporate services portfolio, Oldham MBC