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About the P&I Team Briefings Home | Responses | PFI Index | Policy Guide
Topical news for activists and staff  
bargain brief is

...a 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.

Contacts list:
Ahrlene Ferguson a.ferguson@unison.co.uk
Dave Watson d.watson@unison.co.uk
Peter Hunter p.hunter@unison.co.uk
Michael Byers m.byers@unison.co.uk
Kenny MacLaren k.maclaren@unison.co.uk

@ the P&I Team
14 West Campbell St
Glasgow G26RX
Tel: 0845 355 0845
Fax 0141 221 8953


- Women win on call battle
- Temporary Agency Workers Directive Update
- Amendment of Working Time Regulations

- Holiday entitlement gains for NHS part-time workers

Health & Safety
Employees stressed more, employers clueless

Workplace Issues
- Hospital told to cure stress or else
- Smoking in the workplace Ban

Equality at Work
- Pregnancy discrimination still rife

Sacked for telling off a colleague who had broken wind.

Click here for previous Bargain Briefs



Women win on call battle

Nine women wardens have won a legal battle that could have major implications for people who are forced to remain on standby after completing their hours of work. The staff lived in sheltered homes for the elderly in the London borough of Harrow and worked a basic 37-hour week - but they were kept on call for another 76 hours. An employment tribunal said the council had breached working time regulations and awarded the women £1,500 compensation each. The tribunal said the council had not given the women proper daily rest or given them the national minimum wage for their time on standby. It decided the 76 hours the workers were on call counted as work and as a result the women are also likely to get back pay worth running into thousands of pounds each.

Temporary Agency Workers Directive Update

Almost 1 million British workers look set to remain second-class employees thanks to a government decision to block European legislation intended to extend rights for temporary and agency staff. The Temporary Agency Workers Directive would have ensured that temporary and agency staff received the same pay and conditions as permanent workers. However, Britain rejected the package amid disputes over the "qualifying period". The European Parliament had recommended that rights apply from day one but conceded that Britain be afforded the option of a 5-week qualifying period. However, the British Government had demanded a 9-to-12 month qualifying period for temporary staff and failure to reach agreement on this point was enough to block the adoption of the Temporary Agency Workers Directive.

The P&I Team is currently working on a negotiating guide for temp/agency workers. If you have any examples of local problems please contact Ahrlene Ferguson in the P&I Team on 0141 342 2819

Amendment of Working Time Regulations

The Working Time Regulations were amended, with effect from 1 August 2003, to extend working time measures in full to all non mobile workers in road, sea, inland waterways and lake transport and to all workers in the railway and offshore sectors. The basic rights and protections that the Regulations provide are:

  • a limit of an average of 48 hours a week which a worker can be required to work (though workers can choose to work more if they want to).
  • a limit of an average of 8 hours work in 24 which night-workers can be required to work.
  • a right for night workers to receive free health assessments.
  • a right to 11 hours rest a day.
  • a right to an in-work rest break if the working day is longer than six hours.
  • a right to a day off each week.

Holiday entitlement gains for NHS part-time workers

In January 2003 Unison Scotland was able to extract a commitment from the Scottish Executive to ensure part time staff got full pro rata holiday rights. However, despite this government instruction and the fact that European law prohibits most discrimination against part-time workers, many employers failed to change the holiday rules. In a test case brought recently by UNISON one local NHS trust admitted that the holiday rules led to unlawful treatment of the part time worker in the test case. That worker will now get additional holidays and a compensation payment. However, the trust in that tribunal case now claims that this was a unique situation. In response UNISON is encouraging all part time staff to seek back pay through similar claims and hopes to persuade the Government to set up a compensation scheme. However, UNISON is also preparing the paperwork to enable the union to submit thousands of tribunal claims if this becomes necessary.



Employment Rights




Health & Safety

Employees stressed more, employers clueless

Half of all sickness absence is due to stress and 1 in 5 workers is taking time off because of the problem, according to a new report. The survey from insurance firm Unum Provident also found that the past decade has seen an explosion in employee claims for 'mental and psychological problems,' which were rare a generation ago. It found that whereas in 1995 only one in eight claims were for mental illnesses, by last year the figure had ballooned to almost a quarter. Over the same time, the proportion of claims for back and neck problems and other 'traditional' industrial complaints such as breathing difficulties had fallen sharply. A TUC spokesperson commented: 'Bad organisation of work and the intensity of work appears to be teaching HR a sharp lesson in the limits of special management techniques. The basic cure is more autonomy and better workloads.'





Bargaining issues



Workplace Issues

Hospital told to cure stress or else

The HSE has warned a leading NHS hospital it must act to reduce workplace stress among its 1,100 staff. HSE ordered West Dorset general hospitals NHS trust to undertake a risk assessment of the burden being placed on employees at the three-star Dorset county hospital. The HSE improvement notice was the first served on a British employer to control workplace stress since the introduction of new workplace stress management standards. If local NHS management fails to respond adequately by 15 December, the trust could face substantial fines or prison terms for its senior executives. HSE investigated working conditions at the hospital after staff complained of bullying and unbearable hours. Inspectors found management did not have required procedures to assess the risks.

Smoking in the workplace Ban

A complete ban on smoking in the workplace is closer to reality after the European Commission announced plans to draft new legislation that would outlaw lighting up at work. European Commissioner for health, David Byrne said recently that he intends to introduce European-wide legislation and was "about to conceive a major initiative aimed at banning smoking in workplaces" throughout the 15-country European Union. Also, Stewart Maxwell MSP has submitted a Private Members Bill in the Scottish Parliament to ban smoking in public places.





Pregnancy discrimination still rife

The general public may be supportive of working expectant mothers and knowledgeable about their employment rights but pregnant women still continue to face problems at work, according to the results of a survey released in September 2003 during National Pregnancy Week. The Equal Opportunities Commission published the findings to coincide with the launch of Britain's first ever investigation into pregnancy discrimination at work. More than 1200 people were questioned in the survey, which revealed that 84% of respondents disagreed that pregnancy affects a woman's dedication to her career. A further 21% knew of an expectant mother who had experienced difficulties at work because of her pregnancy with that figure rising to 33% among women aged 25-34. Experiences cited included facing unpleasant remarks or unfounded criticism, being given unsuitable work or even being sacked. Both women and men showed a high level of awareness of pregnant women's rights. 75% knew that a pregnant woman was entitled to insist on being given time off for ante-natal classes and 75% disagreed that an employer could refuse a woman a job if they know she is pregnant.



A lot of employment disputes end up at tribunal because one side or other ends up talking hot air. However, in a recent Swedish case hot air proved to be the pivotal issue the whole workplace disagreement centred on.

Goran Andervass was awarded £60,000 compensation after being sacked for telling off a colleague who had broken wind. Andervass said he rebuked his un-named co-worker, as he believed he had deliberately broken wind in his office. The colleague complained to management who suspended Andervass and later made him redundant.




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