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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


- New Dispute Resolution Procedures
- Letters amount to victimisation
- Changes to the National Minimum Wage

Health & Safety
- Major survey shows people join unions for safety's sake
- HSC hands-off safety plan in total disarray

Workplace Issues
Employers catching on to the importance of pay audits.
- Union Members earn more.

Equality at Work

- If you are the office joker, perhaps it's time you considered a move to court jester, with English Heritage advertising the post for the first time since 1649.

Click here for previous Bargain Briefs



New Dispute Resolution Procedures

The Employment Act 2002 set out a policy framework for how grievance and disciplinary matters should be handled in workplaces. The Act introduces new minimum statutory grievance and disciplinary and dismissal procedures which come into force on 1st October 2004. This legislation aims to reduce the number of Employment Tribunal claims by encouraging employers and employees to resolve disputes in the workplace using internal procedures.

The minimum procedures involve three steps:

  • the employee setting out the grievance or alleged misconduct in writing.
  • a meeting between the employer and employee to discuss the issue, at which the employee has the right to be accompanied by a colleague or trade union representative.
  • An appeal stage if the employee felt that any disciplinary action was unjustified or that their grievance had not been handled satisfactorily.
The minimum procedures fall well short of the standards recommended by the ACAS Code of Practice for disciplinary and grievance procedures. For example, there is no duty on employers to carry out an investigation in disciplinary cases. Failure to complete the procedures would bring penalties if any dispute resulted in an employment tribunal claim:

  • If an employer fails to comply with the minimum disciplinary and dismissal procedures, any dismissal will be found to be automatically unfair and any compensation awards will be increased by between 10% and 50%.
  • If the employer fails to comply with the grievance procedures then
  • compensation levels will also be increased by between 10% and 50%.
  • Conversely, if an employee fails to comply with either the grievance or disciplinary procedures then compensation levels will be reduced by between 10% and 50%.
More significantly, if an employee fails to notify an employer of a grievance in writing and fails to wait 28 days for a response, then their claim will be barred at an employment tribunal.

Letters amount to victimisation

A group of catering staff employed by the local authority brought equal pay claims. Although the majority were settled, some continued so the local authority wrote a letter to all catering staff stating that continuing the claims would have a severe impact. It claimed that the cost of school meals would rise, making the service unviable, and that fewer staff would be required.

A second letter was then sent to the staff who continued with their claims, expressing concern that the catering service could not withstand the cost if their complaints succeeded. The employees' equal pay claims succeeded, and they brought a further claim of victimisation on the basis of the letters written by the local authority, which was upheld by the tribunal. It was satisfied that the letters effectively contained a threat that the employees' actions might deprive children of school meals and cause redundancies, and this was sufficient to amount to victimisation.

The local authority appealed, arguing that a claim of victimisation required more than writing a letter or making critical comments, but the EAT dismissed the appeal. To establish victimisation it was not necessary for direct threats against individual employees. The conduct of the council was clearly capable of amounting to less favourable treatment for the purposes of establishing victimisation.

Changes to the National Minimum Wage

The new rates for the National Minimum Wage starting from 1st October 2004 are:

  • Main (adult) rate for workers aged 22 and over = £4.85 per hour
  • Development rate for workers aged 18-21 inclusive = £4.10 per hour
The Government has also accepted the Low Pay Commission's recommendations for a new rate for 16 and 17 year olds (above compulsory school leaving age) at £3.00 per hour also from 1 October 2004 however 16 and 17 year old apprentices will be exempt from the new young workers rate.

For further information see: http://www.dti.gov.uk/er/nmw/


Employment Rights




Health & Safety

Major survey shows people join unions for safety's sake

Concern over safety at work is a key factor in the recent increase in trade union membership, a Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) report has concluded. STUC's 'Unions Work' research indicates that after pay and conditions, concerns about the working environment are the most frequently given reason for joining a union. STUC says there is considerable evidence of the 'union safety effect,' where unionised workplaces have significantly fewer workplace injuries than those without unions. It estimates that 280,000 workplace accidents have been prevented through the work of Scottish trade union health and safety reps since their introduction in the 1970s.

HSC hands-off safety plan in total disarray

Union concerns about the government's hands-off, business-friendly workplace safety plans have been vindicated after several key points of the new Health and Safety Commission safety strategy were challenged by an all-party Westminster committee.

The Work and Pensions Committee's 25 July 2004 report said the number of safety inspectors should be doubled, safety reps' rights dramatically improved, a corporate crime bill introduced and also said the government should rethink its decision not to impose safety duties on company directors.

The Committee report stresses the safety reps' role which could 'have a powerful effect in improving standards.' The report adds: 'We also believe this power to take action, should include not just criminal prosecutions but also improvement and prohibition notices, subject to the usual right of appeal to the employment tribunal and as to terms on legal costs.'


Bargaining issues



Workplace Issues

Employers catching on to the importance of pay audits.

Research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in its annual reward survey shows that almost a third of the 562 employers questioned conducted a pay audit last year. Around a quarter audited pay on the basis of gender, and 39% confirmed that pay gaps had been uncovered in the process.

The research also found that organisations which are auditing are doing so based on age (47%) and race (45%). Just under half said they would be conducting an audit in 2004, with 98% of those intending to audit on the basis of gender, 63% on age and 56% on race.

Union Members earn more.

The latest research from the Labour Force Survey has revealed that union members on average earn £1.66 more per hour than non-union members.

This news comes in time for the launch of a new recruitment campaign for UNISON, which is launching a television recruitment advertisement in early October 2004. The ad, funded by the General Political Fund, is a ground-breaking communication aimed at making the case for trade unionism. But an ad alone is not enough. The union is gearing up for a major recruitment initiative in October, using the ad as the centrepiece. Regions, branches and the national union all have their part to play in making sure we maximise the effect of the ad to recruit as many new members as possible.





If you are the office joker, perhaps it's time you considered a move to court jester, with English Heritage advertising the post for the first time since 1649.

The appropriate candidate "must be mirthful and prepared to work summer weekends in 2005. Must have own outfit (with bells). Bladder on stick provided if required", according to the job description.





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