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SCOTS CHIEFS WIN NEW DISPUTE PROCEDURES

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Scottish employers and unions have agreed new disciplinary procedures for chief executives, giving them access to a...
Scottish employers and unions have agreed new disciplinary procedures for chief executives, giving them access to an independent third party in disputes with their employers.

The procedures, developed by the Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee for Local Authority Services, were developed following a recommendation of the joint Scottish office/council task force on Scottish local government. They bring the position in Scotland into line with that in England and Wales.

They follow a series of high profile and protracted unfair dismissal cases brought by chief executives in Scotland.

In one of these, Lochaber DC chief executive David Blair was suspended by his council in September 1994 and finally sacked in January 1995, without access to a disciplinary hearing in the presence of a third party.

Unions representing Mr Blair argued he was a victim of a political vendetta and that the council committee hearing his appeal against dismissal was 'tainted by personal interest'.

Douglas Sinclair, chief executive of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and former chief executive executive of Central RC, welcomed the new disciplinary procedures and their improved employment rights.

'It is a fact of life that relations do occasionally break down, and nothing is more critical than the relationship between a chief executive and his or her council,' he said. 'Without the right machinery in place, these things have sometimes dragged on unnecessarily.'

The new guidelines stipulate that in cases of alleged misconduct or unsatisfactory performance, a preliminary investigation must be carried out by a group of at least three members appointed by the council's convener or leader.

If necessary, an impartial investigating committee should be set up which reflects the political balance of the council.

Throughout the disciplinary procedure, the chief executive has the right to agree on the appointment of the independent person with the power to end the investigation and any suspension, to question council staff and to inspect council documents.

Recommendations should be presented to the council and the chief executive. These may include a warning, final warning, suspension without pay, demotion, reduction in salary or dismissal.

The chief executive is able to appeal in writing, with a representative putting his or her case before council.

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