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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:
Kevin O'Neil
Dave Watson d.watson@unison.co.uk
Kenny MacLaren k.maclaren@unison.co.uk
Ahrlene Ferguson a.ferguson@unison.co.uk

P&I Team 14 West Campbell Street Glasgow G2 6RX Tel: 0845 355 0845 Fax: 0141 221 8953 www.unison-scotland.org.uk


- Victory over same-sex partner's pension rights
- Whistleblowers and their rights

Health & Safety
- Will stress standards make any difference?

Workplace Issues
Fat-cats continue to line their wallets.
- Legislation poses no threat for employers.
- Scottish labour market remains buoyant

- Eighty three per cent of employers surveyed in a recent poll said that they wouldn't be organising a Christmas Party for employees this year. This is due to staff not being able to behave ...

Click here for previous Bargain Briefs



Victory over same-sex partner's pension rights

Campaigning by trade unions and lobby group Stonewall has resulted in a major concession from the government over pension rights for same-sex partners. The Civil Partnership Bill, which is currently going through parliament, gives a same-sex couple the right to register their relationship. This will confer a range of legal rights in relation to succeeding to tendencies, social security and pension benefits, and the responsibility to provide reasonable maintenance for the partner and children of the family.

Under the Bill, members of public sector pension schemes will be entitled to survivor benefits, such as a survivor pension, for registered same-sex partners. However, the original proposals said that this right would only apply from the time the partnership is registered under the law – thus excluding any pensionable service that had been accrued before the relationship had been registered.

Following intensive lobbying, however, the government conceded the point and deputy minister for women, Jacqui Smith, told parliament during the Bill's second reading that rights to inherit pensions would be effective from 1998.

The TUC described the move as a major breakthrough", although it will continue to press for full equality in relation to service before 1988 and for the provision to be extended beyond public sector pensions.

Whistleblowers and their rights

A recent case, Street v Derbyshire Unemployed Workers Centre (2004), has reopened legal issues surrounding whistleblowers and disclosures made " in good faith'. Street made disclosures alleging misbehaviour by her senior manager to one of the bodies providing funds to her employer. The senior manager was exonerated, and disciplinary proceedings culminated in her dismissal. She made a complaint of unfair dismissal, alleging she had been dismissed for making the disclosures.

In the case, the Court of Appeal affirmed the Employment Appeal Tribunal's decision. It said that to make a protected disclosure in 'good faith', the person's predominant motive must be "to remedy the wrong that occurred".

While the worker's disclosures were qualifying disclosures under the Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA), they were not protected, as they lacked the requisite good faith. At first, the tribunal held that the worker had been motivated by personal antagonism.

The Employment Appeals Tribunal agreed, saying that it was not enough that a worker had a reasonable belief that they were right. The Court of Appeal held that a person might reasonably believe an allegation was true while also being motivated by personal antagonism. It said that tribunals should only find that disclosure was not made in good faith where the prominent purpose for making it was an ulterior motive, and was not in the public interest. P&I Team Briefing no2 on whistle blowing outlines the implications of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998.


Employment Rights




Health & Safety

Will stress standards make any difference?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has launched management standards to help employers tackle workplace stress, but since they are not legally binding, there are claims they won't make any difference.

At more than 13 million working days a year and an estimated cost of £3.7bn a year, work-related stress is the biggest occupational cause of working days lost through injury or ill-health.

The HSE has developed a continuous improvement model to try and tackle the problem, which features a bench marking tool to help managers gauge stress levels, compare themselves with other organisations and work with employees to identify solutions. However, many trade unions are concerned that because the standards are voluntary, employers will ignore them. Unions are also of the view that this should be backed up by legislation. Jane Kennedy, Minister of State at the Department of Work and Pensions, said that the Government would not make the system mandatory because symptoms of stress exhibited in the workplace do not necessarily all originate there, as staff bring "all sorts of pressures with (them) into work". Many law firms are of the view that despite the voluntary nature of the standards, ignoring them could leave businesses in hot water.


Bargaining issues



Workplace Issues

Fat-cats continue to line their wallets

The pay gap between boardroom executives and employees is continuing to widen. In the year to 30 June 2004, the average total earnings received by directors of the UK's 350 leading firm's rose by 16.1 per cent, according to new research.

Yet the research shows the average total earnings of all employees increased by only 4.3 per cent over the 12 months. The research found that directors of FTSE 350 companies today have an average salary of £213 for every £100 of wages paid to them in 1998.

The widening gap comes despite a number of high-profile campaigns in recent years against 'fat-cat' pay and successful share-holder rebellions that have seen some leading firms reduce payouts to their top directors. Financial experts have urged HR to play a more active role in deciding executive pay to prevent accusations over fat-cat pay settlements.

Legislation poses no threat for employers

Evidence has emerged that employers have had little trouble accommodating the changes in employment law that have taken place in the last few years. Data from a survey of 300 employers by law firm DLA show that the majority of employers believe the changes in employment law have had a positive effect. The only areas of employment legislation where employers felt changes had been detrimental were working time, and the issue of agency workers' rights. The survey also asked employers questions on industrial relations. This revealed that 32 per cent had experienced industrial unrest in the previous 12 months (down from 49 per cent in 2003).

Scottish labour market remains buoyant

Research released from the Bank of Scotland's labour market barometer, shows that Scotland's job market continues to remain buoyant. However, there are fresh signs of staff shortages and of a strong demand exerting an upward pressure on pay rate. The Bank of Scotland's labour market barometer which is based on a poll of recruitment consultancies, signalled an improvement in job conditions, it also highlighted that the number of permanent placements also grew. This research was issued in September 2004. The research also highlighted that growth in permanent placements also grew for the 14 month running, with consultancies generally reporting a further sharp expansion of demand as clients raised capacity to deal with higher workloads. Average weekly billings for temporary and contract staff was also buoyant, increasing to a 19-month peak. Pay rates rose markedly in both categories reflecting keen demand and widening skills shortages. Just under a third of consultancies reported higher pay rates for permanent staff compared with August, with 2% signalling a decline. Average hourly rates for temporary staff surged to a ten-month high, out pacing the UK average by the widest margin since November 2003.

Of Scotland's four main cities, the strongest increase in permanent jobs came in Edinburgh. Official figures also showed that claimant count unemployment rose by 900 to 91,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis.





And Finally…

Eighty three per cent of employers surveyed in a recent poll said that they wouldn't be organising a Christmas Party for employees this year. This is due to staff not being able to behave. 2,000 employers took part in the poll. The poll showed that 66 per cent of employers had to deal with drunken misdemeanours such as fights, arguments and post bash one nightstands. 21 per cent have faced health and safety problems and 10 per cent have had to deal with damage to the venue. Have a great time over the festive period and when at an office party, try to be on the best of behaviour




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