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BARGAIN BRIEF 2
Bargain Brief 2 - Topical news for activists and staff

March 2001
bargaining brief
is a new publication from the Policy & Information Team. It aims to provide a concise and topical news service for activists and staff engaged in representing and bargaining on behalf of UNISON members in Scotland. Recognising that not all activists have the access or time to read detailed information we hope this summary format will be helpful. Further information on any of the news items below is available from the P&I Team and we welcome feedback on any aspect of this service.

Legal
Judge in Own Cause
Burden of proof
Nationality
Compensation Limits
Claims Direct
Part-Time Pensions Ruling
TUPE

Equal Opportunities
Close the Pay Gap

Industrial Relations
Call Centres
Performance Appraisal
Drug Testing
Stress
Psychometric Testing
Union Learning Representatives
Sickness absence
It's a strange world

Contacts list:

 

Legal

Judge in Own Cause
In R v Chief Constable of Merseyside Police ex-parte Bennion IDS Brief 678 Bennion a Chief Inspector made a complaint of harassment and victimisation to an industrial tribunal. Before the tribunal was heard the Chief Constable refused a request that a subsequent disciplinary matter should be transferred to another force. Bennion was disciplined and demoted.

The High Court in England held that the Chief Constable should not have conducted the disciplinary hearing because the outcome could have a bearing on the tribunal claim. Where there was a real possibility of partiality no one could be a "judge in their own cause".

This case could be a useful argument against the not uncommon practice of pursuing disciplinary hearings when there are outstanding grievances. Particularly when these are the subject of application to an ET.

Burden of proof

The EU Burden of Proof Directive has to be implemented by 22 July 2001. This will shift the burden of proof in discrimination cases from the employee to employer. It will also widen the grounds on which claims for indirect discrimination can be made.

Nationality

The court of Session in British Airways v Boyce 2001 IRLR 157 have confirmed that the English and the Scottish are of different national origin and therefore can make a claim based on nationality but not ethnic origins. The court also decided that this is a subjective decision and that nationality could alter. It is not limited to a person's birthplace. This could have interesting consequences if applied to qualification for the Scotland football team!

Compensation Limits

The limits for awards at an Employment Tribunal have been increased roughly in line with inflation. The weekly wage limit from £230 to £240 and the unfair dismissal compensatory award from £50,000 to £51,700.

Claims Direct

The personal injury compensation company has suffered a sharp drop in customer numbers after the BBC's Watchdog series unearthed angry claimants who had received little or no compensation for their injuries despite winning big awards in court. Their awards were wiped out by an insurance premium that Claims Direct charged to cover its costs in the event of a lost case. Another good reason to be thankful for UNISON's legal services.

Part-Time Pensions Ruling

The House of Lords have finally ruled on the long running case UNISON has supported on behalf of part-time workers who have been denied access to pension schemes. The many thousands of cases lodged by UNISON will now be processed and many members will be entitled to compensation. A factsheet has been circulated to branches.

TUPE

More confusion over what constitutes an economic entity for the purposes of the regulations in the ECJ decision Oy Liikenne Ab v Liskojarvi 2001 IRLR 171. In a contract for seven bus routes no vehicles were transferred and this was held to be significant in this transfer. This decision appears to conflict with recent decisions in the UK courts and reinforces the need to expedite the current review of the regulations.

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Equal Opportunities

Close the Pay Gap

The Scottish Executive has launched a campaign to close the pay gap between men and women. Working with the STUC, EOC and CBI the campaign aims to raise awareness of the pay gap and encourage activity to reduce the gap.

Branches may wish to use this ministerial launch to press their employers to undertake equal pay audits. Unless employers gather pay data they will not be able to seriously address equal pay. The EOC is recommending that the Government amend the Equal Pay Act to make such audits compulsory.

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Industrial Relations

Call Centres

The TUC call centre campaign has again highlighted the poor working conditions in some call centres. The TUC report estimates that over 400,000 staff are employed in call centres which is more than the coal, steel and motor industries put together. This could grow to 665,000 WTE jobs by 2008.

Much of this growth is likely to be in the public sector although at the expense of traditional public contact staff. The Scottish Executive's 21st Century Government initiative is promoting call centre technology in the public sector (see P&I Briefing No. 10 on Shared Services).

There are over 50,000 call centre staff in Scotland. Growing competition for staff has forced average earnings up to £13,100, the highest in the UK outside Southern England.

Details of the TUC survey can be viewed at www.tuc.org.uk The P&I Team can also provide more detailed pay and conditions data and a revised UNISON negotiators guide will be published shortly.

Performance Appraisal

A survey of 926 managers by the Institute of Employment Studies has found that appraisal systems have only a limited impact on organisational performance. This is particularly the case when appraisals are linked to pay. Effective appraisals should have a clear link between staff performance and the organisations goals as well as being simple to understand and operate.

Drug Testing

Testing employees for illegal substances could be restricted when a Data Protection code of practice comes into force in April this year. The draft code recommends that testing can only be justified on safety grounds. This may well limit the blanket testing arrangements which are creeping in to many organisations.

Stress

79% of employers believe stress should be controlled in the same way as other workplace health and safety issues according to a study published by the HSE. www.hse.gov.uk/hsehome.htm

Psychometric Testing

The increasing use of automatic psychometric testing could be in breach of the Data Protection Act. Employers have to tell employees that the process was automated and provide an appeal process.

Union Learning Representatives

The Government is considering giving union learning representatives legal status , similar to that of safety representatives. This would give them greater status and require employers to consult them over training strategy. www.dti.gov.uk

Sickness absence

A system requiring a medical certificate for every absence increased sickness absence by 10% in a trial at Marks & Spencer.

It's a strange world .

Managers in an Austrian car factory painted the men's toilet bright pink and the women's sickly green. A survey then showed that staff spent less time in the toilets and production rose by 8%. Better keep this one quiet!

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Contacts list:
Dave Watson
d.watson@unison.co.uk
Dianne Anderson
d.anderson@unison.co.uk

@ the P&I Team
14 West Campbell St
Glasgow G26RX
Tel 0141-332 0006
Fax 0141-307 2572

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