Unison seeks national plan on staff moves in local authority reorganisation

A national framework for staff being transferred to new employers is needed to support the government’s planned shake-up of local authorities, the largest public sector union has said.

In July, the government announced the creation of nine new unitary authorities, scrapping 35 smaller councils, with the aim of saving £150m a year.

Unison, which represents about 860,000 local council workers, said the reorganisation would be a “huge undertaking”.

Councils have said the number of likely redundancies will range from a handful at some authorities to a couple of hundred at others. But unions fear these figures are underestimated and want a “clear national framework” of terms and conditions.

However, the Public Sector People Managers’ Association (PPMA) said councils should have the freedom to develop local protocols to deal with the restructuring.

Brendon Hills, head of HR and development at Shropshire County Council, and PPMA lead officer on reorganisation, said: “There will need to be some guidance from central government that takes account of the needs of staff going through transfers. But local authorities need to be able to develop approaches [to transition the arrangements] for themselves.”

These would include HR policies and conditions of service, employee communications and recruitment and retention procedures, Hills added.

GMB off the equal pay hook

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) overturned a ruling last week, sparing the GMB union from facing sex discrimination claims that could have paved the way for tens of thousands of women to claim against their unions.

In June 2006, a tribunal in the GMB v Allen case ruled that female staff at Middlesbrough Borough Council had been poorly represented by the GMB in a pay agreement.

Lawyers had initially estimated the union could have been forced to pay thousands of pounds in compensation to the women.

Audrey Williams, employment law partner at Eversheds law firm, said: “It would be difficult to over-estimate the total cost to the trade union movement had the EAT not overturned the decision.”

More collective deals could now be signed by employers in a bid to solve the local government equal pay crisis.

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