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Frozen Pay, Withheld Bonuses, Funding Cuts, Pension Reforms, Slashes in Redundancy Pay.
Are these the potential sources of conflict for the next 12 months?
by Tinu Fagbemi | 29th Jul 2010
INTRODUCTIONNot another day goes by without been bombarded with "Big Society" ideas and decisions by the new Lib-Dem coalition government. Staff in industries such as Criminal Justice, Education and Civil Service have seen their structure shaken up whilst other industries like Mass Communication Media, Airline and Civil Aviation are been plagued by “old sins”. Wherever you look, cuts are being made, services being broken up, divided into competing pieces and starved of needed investment.
GOVERNMENT FUNDING CUTSThe criminal justice could see a loss of up to 60,000 posts by 2015 if cuts are revealed in the government spending review due out in the autumn, an expert warned in an article by People Management. Working on an ‘average’ level of 25% funding cuts, job losses could lie between 11,500 and 17,000. It has been speculated that police forces are set to face cuts on a larger scale than this due to displacement effect of other public spending being protected.
Dr Tim Brian, the recently retired chief constable of Gloucestershire and Association of Chief Police Officers lead on finance said “First, the police service is not on the protected list”. Secondly the new home secretary Theresa May has warned that the police can expect to face its fair share of cuts and third there has specifically been no guarantee to maintain personnel numbers”.
Civil servants’ redundancy packages are also under fire under new government plans to level payouts with those in the private sector. Cabinet officer minister, Francis Maude is reported to be concerned that the Civil Service Compensation Scheme (CSCS) are significantly out of line with the private sector redundancy. Union leaders have labelled the move “outrageous”. Mark Serwotka, Public and Commercial Service union general secretary said “they want to bring redundancy arrangement into line with the private sector but not do anything about pay. And the reality is about pay”. It is reported that the civil service is nearly 7% behind comparable jobs in the public sector talk less of those in the private sector.
PENSION REFORMSWhilst the Civil Servants battle with their “golden goodbyes”, Staff of Universities and the BBC are threatening industrial action over pension reforms. Union leaders for Universities and BBC have warned employers not to go too far or they could provoke industrial action. Under changes approved by the Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) for the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) which serves around 400 academic and non-academic UK institution after 2 years of negotiations, staff will see their pension scheme members’ contribution rise by just over 1% point to 7.5% and the retirement age raised to 65 from 60 for those currently aged under 55. If approved, implementations of the amendments have been scheduled for 1st April 2011. BBC Staff face proposals that would potentially cap pensionable growth at 1% irrespective of future pay rises or promotion. Jeremy Dear, National Union of Journalist (NUJ) described it as “pension robbery” which much be stopped.
INDUSTRIAL STRIKE ACTIONOver on the telecommunications and transport industry, British Telecom (BT) and London Underground narrowly escaped workers strike over pay. Workers at BT were forced to call off a strike ballot over a 2% pay rise offer from BT which the Communication and Workers’ Union (CWU) rejected as too low. CWU demanded a 5% rise. While a 48-hour tube strike was also suspended on the 14th July after transport bosses made maintenance staff an improved offer. Workers for tube lines will vote on a pay increase of 4.2% and an agreement on the protection of jobs according to the Metro.
Finally, the Aviation Industry has been in the spotlight throughout the month of July. Prospect and Unite opened the ballot to strike on the 23rd July over pay and withheld bonuses according to Air Travel. Brendan Gold, Unite’s national officer for civil aviation said, “Unite and BAA have been in talks for months and are prepared to continue talking”. BAA staff have already accepted a pay freeze in 2009 to help the company, but they are not prepared to accept such a paltry offer this year”. It goes without saying the on-going issues British Airways and its 11,000 cabin crew workers have been facing which has cost the airline an estimated financial loss of £150m and counting. C.E.O Willie Walsh is positive a resolution can be met.
FUTURE OUTLOOKLooking at what the UK working population have been through in the last four weeks, it is not surprising that the statistics published by the tribunal service revealed a 56% increase in employment tribunal cases in England, Scotland and Wales this year. A total of 236,100 cases were lodged to the end of March 2010 up from 151,000 claims in the preceding 12months. The tribunal service attributed the soaring number of cases to an increase in multiple claims and in part to the changing economic climate.
Regardless of the discouraging outlook, industrial actions and growing use of litigations, disputes are still better resolved through conversation and mediation. The current economic climate has created difficult workplace challenges for managers, HR professionals and employees. The earlier issues can be resolved, the more likely people will remain in productive employment in the workplace. However a stronger framework for pre-conciliation is needed to neutralise these growing number. Acas, the government agency set-up to deal with workplace disputes have been publicly criticised for its inability to take on this challenge. Ian Smith, Clifford Chance professor of Employment Law at the University of East Anglia said, “There is a problem with resources. Acas has a duty to conciliate in employment tribunal cases and the increase in cases and decrease in resources will squeeze out pre-claim conciliation”. He also thought Acas’ lack of advertising for the new facility was evidence that the scheme would not be extended.
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NOTES TO EDITORSTo find out more, call Tinu Fagbemi on 020 7 092 3184
The TCM Group is the UK’s leading independent provider of workplace and business mediation services.
The TCM group was established in 2001 by its founder David Liddle.
In the past nine years the company has delivered a sophisticated package of mediation services to some of the worlds leading brands – American Airlines, HSBC, BT, Arcadia Group, CBS Outdoor, Hallmark, Ministry of Defence amongst many others
The company trains over 1000 individuals in the art of mediation each year – mainly managers and other employees who are committed to improving the way that they resolve workplace and business disputes.
The TCM Group has recently been commenting on workplace disputes on Sky News, GMTV, BBC Radio and various trade press.
The TCM Group established Professional Mediators Association (PMA) – a body dedicated to raising standards amongst professional mediators
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