Partnership Working and Twin Track Approach

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2010 Health Care Service Group Conference
18 April 2010

Conference welcomes the achievements that partnership working at national, regional and local level has brought over the past decade. UNISON has worked to pioneer partnership working throughout the NHS and in all four countries of the UK. The experience has shown conclusively that partnership can deliver real gains for health staff and union members as well as for employers and governments. Most importantly, partnership working has helped deliver real and sustainable improvements in the quality of patient care.

Conference recognizes that a test of the sustainability of partnership working will be when it is used in the difficult times as well as the good. Changes in senior management or in government can undermine partnership working if the new generation is not committed to establishing and building good partnership relationships.

For many UNISON activists the introduction of work-life balance initiatives and Agenda for Change provided compelling evidence of the benefits of working in partnership with employers. This was despite the fact that they were working in often challenging circumstances. The development of a culture of transparency, openness and joint problem-solving was not an easy enterprise and required significant commitment on an individual level, understanding the fact that both parties have different objectives but the same ultimate goal.

Since this time, local branches have invested time and resources in establishing and developing the mechanisms and processes to support and encourage partnership working with NHS employers at local, regional and national level and in forging a formally acknowledged relationship with their employers. As competition for resources increases, this investment in partnership working could be threatened. The union needs to act quickly to ensure that partnership working does not fall victim to the changing financial and political circumstances in the NHS and the possibility of a growing influence of anti-union forces within Government and policy-making bodies.

Whilst recognizing that the immediate period ahead will present major political and economic challenges for the NHS and for health staff, Conference believes that it remains in our members’ interests to continue to work in partnership with governments and employers to seek solutions to challenges and problems.

UNISON should work to ensure that gains in joint working are not lost as a result of a hostile economic or political situation and should strive to maintain partnership working at local, regional and national levels.

Conference resolves to ask the SGE to:

1.Engage in political lobbying and joint work with NHS Trade Unions to support the principle of partnership working and secure the future of partnership bodies at national and regional level.

2.Via national and regional partnership bodies, work to embed and promote partnership working across all NHS organizations.

3.Undertake a co-ordinate programmed of work to establish links between regional and national Partnership Forums for the purposes of:

a.Sharing information

b.Co-coordinating work on UNISON’s policy agenda

c.Ensuring relevant referrals to other joint bodies within NHS structures

(e.g. NHS Staff Council, Scottish Terms and Conditions committee etc).

UNISON should enter into dialogue with local employers, regional and national

employer representative bodies and UK health departments with a view to reaching

agreement to:

i.Re-state their commitment to joint working and genuine engagement with trade unions, including active use of appropriate partnership agreements.

ii.Maintain the machinery for partnership working, including maintaining the regular cycle of partnership meetings, forums or events.

iii.Resource partnership working with appropriate facilities including facility time for trade union representatives.

iv.Promote the value and benefits of partnership working with trade unions.

v.Work together to promote the values and principles of the NHS and to implement the NHS Constitution in the interest of our joint goal – delivering a quality health service, free at the point of need.