Terms and Conditions eroded by stealth in the Water Industry

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2019 Water, Environment & Transport Conference
25 February 2019

Conference notes with concern a trend within the water industry for workplace agreements to be circumvented by local managers. This is frequently done on a “trial basis”, in localised areas, without any systematic or meaningful consultation. Often the agreed communication and consultation channels between the companies and the unions are ignored on the pretext that the impact is small and only affects a few workers. Matters which are covered by agreements, including core terms and conditions such as hours of duty and spans of responsibility, are involved.

For employees in these circumstances there is often pressure to participate in these trials, to not be seen as being obstructive to progress, with no ability to retain established terms and conditions if the new ways of working do not suit them. Employees applying for or transferred to roles where such “trial” terms are in operation cannot know the permanent terms that will apply. At the same time the trial terms can become long-lasting or permanent without ever having been properly negotiated as set out in recognition agreements. There is often no clear criteria for success or failure of these trials, nor who or what body would determine what would happen after the trial period.

This is clearly unacceptable and means that changes to core terms and conditions are being made stealthily, inconsistently and without proper consultation involving UNISON and other trade unions.

Conference calls upon the Service Group Executive to:

1) Survey water branches to understand the prevalence of “trial basis” terms and conditions changes within the sector;

2) Share details of relevant developments among water branches through the Water Industry Sector Committee;

3) Circulate guidance to branches on how to respond proactively to proposals for “trial” alterations to key working practices; and

4) Support branches in resisting such practices wherever they come to light.