Collective Sectoral Bargaining and Compliance with National Minimum Wage Regulations

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Conference
2018 Community Service Group Conference
Date
7 November 2017
Decision

Conference welcomes the statements of Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell at Trades Union Congress (TUC) that the Institute of Employment Rights (IER)’s Manifesto for Labour Law is being taken forward by the Labour Party as “the basis for our implementation manual in this field” and of Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey MP (Salford and Eccles) at the Institute of Employment Rights (IER) and Campaign for Trade Union Freedom (CTUF) fringe event at the Labour Party Conference that the next Labour government will provide workers with all their rights from day one of a Labour Government, will abolish the Trade Union Act 2016, and will establish a Ministry of Labour.

Conference commends the excellent work undertaken by the IER’s 15 top lawyers and academics to produce the Manifesto for Labour Law which now forms an integral part of the Labour Party’s Manifesto and seeks to set standards across entire industries and throughout the economy by reinstating sectoral collective bargaining.

Conference also commends the work the IER has undertaken to produce “8 Good Reasons Why Adult Social Care Needs Sectoral Collective Bargaining” which shows that thousands of employers of UNISON Community members continue to underpay their staff and calls on the government to promote and support sectoral collective bargaining between Social Care employers’ associations and trade unions to establish an agreed upon set of standards to be applied across the industry.

Conference believes that sectoral collective bargaining is key to redressing the imbalance of power between employers and workers, ensures that workers have a democratic voice within their workplace, and prevents employers from exploiting migrant labour (which forces standards down for both migrant workers and those born in this country).

In 2013 a tribunal ruled in the case of Whittlestone v BJP Home Support Ltd that care workers’ overnight shifts should be paid at minimum wage. Despite this, thousands of workers continue to receive a flat rate for sleep-ins.

Guidance issued in 2015 by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (DBEIS) stated: “A worker who is found to be working, even though they are asleep, is entitled to the national minimum or NLW (National Living Wage) for the entire time they are at work.”

In 2016, Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) began to enforce this aspect of the law, but in July 2017, the government agreed to an ‘amnesty’ for the thousands of employers who owe their staff back pay as a result following representation from employers that to compensate workers would break the back of the industry.

In September 2017 the government announced that this policy would be extended for one more month stating that all employers should “pay their workers according to the law, including for sleep-in shifts”

Conference agrees with the statement of our General Secretary that this “extended amnesty is a green light for dodgy employers to carry on paying illegal wages without fear of ever being punished.”

Whilst some of these employers may be small organisations who struggle to deliver local authority contracts within tight specifications, many care providers are private equity funded companies wrapped up in secretive and complex funding arrangements, making huge profits on the backs of UNISON members and flagrantly taking advantage of their skills, diligence, and commitment whilst denying them their rights under law.

Conference, therefore, further welcomes the significant work UNISON is undertaking at all levels of its structure to take forward National Minimum Wage claims against unscrupulous employers who continue to exploit Community members and their colleagues and bring them to justice.

This work clearly exemplifies why the Social Care industry needs collective sectoral bargaining as a matter of urgency.

Conference therefore calls upon the Service Group Executive to:

a) Work with the Local Government and Health Service Groups to continue to raise the issue of, and campaign for, appropriate funding for the Social Care Sector.

b) Work with all appropriate bodies to lobby and campaign for the enforcement of regulations defining ‘sleep-ins’ as work for the purposes of National Minimum Wage regulations.

c) Work with Labour Link, UNISON national office and other stakeholders, including lobbying political parties in positions of power and influence in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure that collective sectoral bargaining in Social Care is kept high on our political and bargaining agenda.

d) Consider inviting a guest speaker from the IER to a future Community Conference and Seminar to address the Service Group on the need for sectoral collective bargaining in the Social Care Sector.