Formal Response Re Council Re-organisation Phase 8

Dear Mr Petrie

Re: Council Re-organisation Phase 8

UNISON is still opposed to the cuts that are taking place as a result of the government‟s policy of public sector cuts. These cuts will have a negative impact on the Council workforce and our local community. The majority of our members employed by the Council are also residents of Waltham Forest and the damage to individual lives that we believe will follow in the wake of these cuts should be a matter of real concern to our elected members and our officers.

However, the Council is currently pursuing the cuts agenda with unseemly vigour and haste. UNISON would like to see the Council show more reticence than is currently being displayed. As we have previously argued, the Council could be looking at expenditure associated with the continuing use of agency staff and consultants.

Adult Social Care
Adult Social Care Proposals
The proposals for the Adult Social Care in phase 8 have been made very difficult to consult on as the job descriptions for the new posts that were supposed to be on the Intranet on 15th April were still not available on 3rd May. The job descriptions are supposed to be part of the consultation and should therefore be available within the timescales provided; in addition there have been 4 Bank Holidays during the consultation period which has lessened the amount of consulting time available.

The proposal to make all of the administrator posts generic has not taken account of the unique role of the sensory disabilities team administrator. The role requires the post holder to use BSL (British sign language) and deaf/blind manual in order to communicate with service users in the absence of a specialist worker. The role also requires specific communication skills for deaf, blind and dual sensory loss service users. There has been no account of the registration duties under 1948 Act section 29 which is also a task undertaken by this specialist role.

Staff have questioned the deletion of the stores person post. This post delivers vital equipment to people with disabilities and how this function will be carried out in the future in Waltham Forest remains uncertain. This post, although showing vacant on the structure chart, has had to be covered by a temporary worker due to the recruitment freeze but UNISON is concerned as to whether we can continue to deliver the service without filling this post.

UNISON has concerns that health and safety issues have not been considered as the removal of the stores post will leave a warehouse worker working alone. There has also been no consideration as to who will assist drivers and technicians with manual handling of equipment.

There have been questions asked about who will be raising orders for the equipment
store, as the SAP officer’s post within the ICES team has been deleted. This role currently raises orders without the use of EBP to ensure there are no delays in the delivery of equipment to vulnerable service users. As the job descriptions have not been made available staff are unsure as to how this function will be covered and still meet timescales.

UNISON believes the structure charts are incorrect as there are 2 occupational therapy assistants that are not on the structure chart. The role of major and minor adaptations co-ordinator is missing from the “to be‟ structure; it is unclear whether this role will continue.

The location of the administrators has been raised as an issue as the mobility team work from a different site to the other teams, how will admin support be provided?

With only one member of staff at the stores depot there will be nobody to attend to visitors i.e. service users, OT‟s and other professionals, there will be nobody to assemble equipment on arrival and receive on arrival, there will be nobody to clean returned equipment in times of leave or illness.

The current structure allows for instant provision of equipment for unplanned hospital discharge and terminal illness, have our health colleagues been consulted on the proposals and the possible impact on bed blocking?

There are also plans for the ICES project to be looking at how community equipment is being provided within the borough, part of the project is to look at how the stores could be used in the future to provide alternative services for Waltham Forest and our surrounding boroughs, UNISON believes this could lead to a need for an increase in staff rather than a decrease and should therefore be carried before the current proposal is put in place.

Environment and Regeneration
UNISON is concerned about the manner in which the shared service proposal with Haringey is being managed. As Council members will recall a number of Waltham Forest posts in Economic Development were deleted in Phase 3. At least three of the staff directly affected are still employed whilst serving their redundancy notice. According to the proposals there are posts in the new shared service structure that could represent suitable alternative employment opportunities, but it appears that they are not being allowed any opportunity to be considered for those posts.

Furthermore, UNISON understands that consultants are currently employed in this team and are carrying out some tasks that were recently carried out by staff who have been made redundant, retired or are serving out their redundancy notice. These consultants all appear to have been previously hired in Haringey.

We are aware that some of the management involved are ex Haringey employees. This situation raises concerns over the issue of fairness in relation to these proposals.

We ask that the consultation be extended so that these issues can be explored and hopefully resolved.

UNISON has requested that there be some discussion with management about a shared service protocol laying out how we will transfer staff from an “ordinary” arrangement to a shared service arrangement. UNISON also requires information on Haringey’s procedures, pay scales and the salaries of the staff involved in this shared service proposal. We believe it is imperative that we hold a meeting which includes Haringey management, HR and the relevant trade unions in order to discuss what exactly is being proposed here and how the proposal would be implemented. So far these requests have borne no fruit.

UNISON has requested meetings involving the trade unions of both Haringey and Waltham Forest to meet with managers from both boroughs. That has not happened and it appears that management want to progress this with each borough individually. This is not full and proper consultation and it is extremely frustrating to see that HR have made no progress at all in facilitating proper consultation with all the interested parties. We are aware that this is highly unusual in Shared Services negotiations in London and that Waltham Forest is providing a less transparent consultation process than is expected. To fail to hold a meeting of all parties involved and to fail to consult on a proper protocol for shared service options is a major flaw in our consultation arrangements. For this service those arrangements have proved inadequate and may lead to allegations of unfair dismissal on behalf of the workers who have suffered serious detriment as a result.

It is also relevant to point out that Waltham Forest now intends to change our employees’ terms and conditions so our members could find themselves working in the same jobs on worse pay, terms and conditions than colleagues employed in the same team working for Haringey. It has become evident to us through our Regional Office that Waltham Forest is the first and possibly only London authority to be cutting our jobs, our terms and conditions on the scale that is currently being proposed. I understand that we may well also have the poorest pay protection and voluntary severance arrangements of all London boroughs.

At the moment, our members in Economic Development are concerned that the timetable will come and go without allowing them an opportunity to clarify all the issues that will arise from a Shared Service. For example:

  • Who will evaluate the new posts?
  • Will they be on Haringey or Waltham Forest terms and conditions?
  • Who will be making decisions about ring fences and assimilations?
  • The proposed ring fences that we have seen as they have been published by Haringey, but not by Waltham Forest, appear to show the Haringey staff will be assimilated whilst the Waltham Forest staff are ring fenced or excluded. How did that happen?
  • Who will sit on interview panels?
  • Do Waltham Forest and Haringey have the same recruitment policies and procedures?
  • We think that the Haringey and Waltham Forest pay scales do not match exactly so how will assimilation rights be determined?

UNISON believes that as these issues are all pertinent to any proper consultation and we are becoming concerned that proper consultation is being avoided and has not been allowed to happen.

Finally we understand that staff who are currently employed by Haringey are protected in the implementation proposals while Waltham Forest employees are excluded or suffer detriment.

UNISON therefore urges councillors and management to review their proposals once again and to allow proper, full and open consultation.

Yours sincerely

Dave Knight
Branch Secretary

(originally posted 25.5.11)

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