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About the P&I Team Briefings Home | Responses | PFI Index | Policy Guide
BARGAIN BRIEF March 2005 No 21
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


- Minimum Wage Increase
- Unfair Dismissal and Redundancy Payments
- Employment Law Timetable

Bargaining Issues
Jarvis saved by Refinancing Deal
- Company Pension Schemes

Health & Safety
- Deadlines can Kill
HSE Enforcement Decline leads to Deregulation Fears
- Delays to Corporate Manslaughter laws alarm unions

Workplace Issues

Equality at Work
- Increase in Paid Maternity and Paternity Leave
- Work Life Imbalance
Pregnancy Discrimination
- Proposals for Universal Equality Body
- Age Discrimination Legislation
- Probation Officers to ban BNP

- Getting on at work The TUC has issued a warning that Workplace Romance is in danger as some employers attempt to copy their counterparts in the United States where relationship bans and "love contracts" have been introduced.

Click here for previous Bargain Briefs



Minimum Wage Increase

The Government intends to increase the minimum wage to £5.05 from £4.85 per hour from October 2005, with a further increase to £5.35 next year.

The rate for 18-21 year olds will also rise from £4.10 to £4.25 per hour but the newly introduced rate for 16 and 17 year olds is frozen at £3.00 per hour.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said that the move would benefit "about 1.4m people."

UNISON had made a submission to the Low Pay Commission on the proposals and Dave Prentis expressed concern at the decision to freeze the 16-17 year old rate.

Unfair Dismissal and Redundancy Payments

Statutory payments and awards made to workers faced with unfair dismissal and redundancy increases from 1 February in line with inflation.

The maximum amount for calculating a week's pay rises from £270 to £280 and the maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal rises from £55,000 to £56,800

In cases of dismissal for trade union duties or activities; health & safety responsibilities pension scheme trustee or employee rep the minimum basic award rises from £3,600 to £3,800.

Employment Law Timetable

6 April 2005

  • Employment Relations Act 2004

New trade union laws come into force amending the statutory union recognition procedure.

  • Tax Credits Increase

The rates of the Working Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit all increase.

  • National Insurance Contributions Rise

The rates of Class 2 and Class 3 contributions increase from £2.05 to £2.10 and from £7.15 to £7.35 respectively.



Employment Rights




Health & Safety

Deadlines can Kill

New research has confirmed the long-held union view that stress caused by working to short deadlines, coupled with a long working hours culture can cause heart attacks.

Results of a survey carried out in Sweden found that short-term high demands, competition and conflict in the workplace led to an increased risk of a heart attack. Women were three times more likely and men up to 6 times when compared with other workers.

HSE Enforcement Decline leads to Deregulation Fears

Despite numerous studies that inspections and enforcement action help secure health & safety improvements the HSE's annual report for 2003/4 showed a steep decline.

In July 2004 a Select Committee report severely criticised the HSE's current strategy and called for increased enforcement and rights for safety reps. Despite this the HSE appear to have bowed to deregulatory pressure to "reduce burdens on business" and "be more sympathetic to business needs".

Delays to Corporate Manslaughter laws alarm unions.

Despite the announcement of a new corporate manslaughter law in the Queen's Speech last year, unions are concerned that the proposed bill may be lost due to the impending general election. In addition the bill will not impose duties on individual directors.

However, the Scottish Executive is to publish a consultation paper later this year, which will put forward options for changes in the law to create a new offence of "corporate homicide" in Scotland



Bargaining issues

Jarvis saved by Refinancing Deal

Jarvis was forced to seek a refinancing deal after debts of £240m threatened its survival. Agreement was reached with creditors, subcontractors, Local Authorities and the NHS for £110 m to fund the outstanding construction work and the company was forced to sell off subsidiary companies.

Company Pension Schemes

The Government is likely to adopt a scheme where people are automatically opted in to company pension schemes in an attempt to encourage more people to be part of their organisation's contributory pension scheme


Workplace Issues




Increase in Paid Maternity and Paternity Leave

The Government has unveiled plans to extend maternity pay to 9 months by 2007, with the option of transferring some leave to fathers. This would give an extra £1,400 to new mothers, with the Government paying the bill, instead of employers.

Work Life Imbalance

A new survey has shown that workers in their 30s are more stressed out by long hours working, pressure of work and juggling with childcare than those in other ages. Researchers at the Employers' Forum on Age found that just 54% of this age group were happy with their work-life balance. Over 60s are the happiest in work, with satisfaction rates of 93%.

Pregnancy Discrimination

The Equal Opportunities Commission has found around 30,000 working women are sacked, made redundant or leave their jobs due to pregnancy discrimination.

Almost half of the women surveyed said they experienced some form of

discrimination; a fifth said they lost out financially and 5% were put under pressure to leave their jobs after announcing their pregnancy. The EOC are calling for urgent action to end this unlawful treatment of pregnant women.

Proposals for Universal Equality Body

Plans for a single equality commission will not be pushed through parliament until after the next election.

The proposals concerns the ;scheme to combine the Commission for Racial Equality, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Disability rights Commission.

Age Discrimination Legislation

Age discrimination legislation due to be introduced during 2006 is set to give legal rights to the over-65s in employment. This will mean equality in issues like compensation payments at tribunals which will be uncapped. The Government has also done a u-turn and is preparing to give employees over 65 the same entitlement to redundancy pay as younger workers currently receive and redundancy pay will no longer by age-restricted as it is at present.

Probation Officers to ban BNP

The Chief Inspector of Probation has called for the ban on prison officers being active members of the BNP to be extended to include the probation service. In a report entitled I'm not a racist but . . ., it is claimed that in most cases probation officers fail to challenge the attitudes and behaviour of convicted racists. The Home Office has accepted 15 of the 16 recommendations in the report including the need for a national strategy to tackle the problem.




Getting on at work

The TUC has issued a warning that Workplace Romance is in danger as some employers attempt to copy their counterparts in the United States where relationship bans and "love contracts" have been introduced.

Whilst accepting that employers have a right to set guidelines to ensure that any romance or friendship between employees does not have an adverse effect on an individual's work, UNISON's policy officer said that employers had to remember that their staff were not robots and that work was a place where friendships of many kinds were formed.




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