Developing and expanding social partnership and fair work in Wales and across the UK

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2021 Virtual Special Local Government Service Group Conference
7 April 2021

UNISON Cymru/Wales supports the principle of a �Fair Work Nation�. As the largest trade union in Wales, we speak on behalf of around 100,000 members and their families and work with 49 affiliated unions through the Wales TUC.

We strongly support the aims of Welsh government�s Draft Social Partnership and Public Procurement (Wales) Bill which aims to strengthen social partnership arrangements by putting them on a statutory footing. Wales faces severe long term economic and public service challenges which have been significantly worsened by the UK government�s austerity agenda and Covid-19 pandemic. Despite unemployment levels in Wales falling back to pre-financial crisis levels of below 5% there has been no corresponding rise in pay. Instead there has been a decline in real terms pay since 2008. In many low-paid sectors casualised employment, low hours and zero hours contracts have become the norm.

In this context, UNISON Cymru/Wales supports the Welsh government�s strengthening of social dialogue and social partnership as an essential democratic and constitutional function. By underpinning, enhancing and consolidating our social partnership the Welsh Government is setting an example for the whole of the UK on how to deliver a more equal society.

Partnership is crucial to maintaining and building employment in Wales and the UK as a whole.

A Welsh government committed to making Wales a Fair Work Nation must take responsibility for ensuring that every policy, financial and legislative lever at its disposal are fully utilised in enforcing the delivery of Fair Work outcomes and that it provides suitable resource to that delivery.

There needs to be a fundamental shift in the perception and treatment of workers� rights, the democratic representative role of unions and the legitimacy of tripartite social partnership. The proposed social partnership and public procurement legislation is an opportunity to ensure that, wherever decisions are made about working people�s lives, that their democratic trade unions are active participants.

The definition of Welsh social partnership is that it is:

1)Tripartite: Consisting of government, trade unions and public and private sector employers;

2)Representative: Involving organisations providing the collective voice of workers and employers;

3)Accountable: Able to speak on behalf of their sectors/members by being fully accountable to them.

On the basis that the Welsh government�s proposals meet that definition, UNISON fully supports this initiative which includes the creation of a new Social Partnership Council.

Social Partnership Council�s role should be to:

a)Reach agreements on workforce issues within the devolved public sector for the purpose of improving public services;

b)Reach agreements on what is expected of organisations and businesses receiving public support in so far as workforce issues are concerned;

c)Consider generally how social partnership and Fair Work can improve efficiency and effectiveness so as to achieve a prosperous Wales and improve people�s well-being;

d)Consider how government policy, expenditure and legislation can best contribute to a prosperous Wales and improve people�s well-being.

UNISON is calling for a clear statement of intent saying:

The expected outcomes of a Social Partnership approach are to prioritise delivery of long term social and economic equality for Wales; and, through grants and procurement processes we will:

i)Significantly increase collective bargaining coverage

ii)Increase trade union access to and presence in workplaces

Which will:

A)Address in-work poverty.

B)Reduce gender pay gap.

C)Ensure ethical standards of employment.

The development of this social partnership and fair work agenda will provides the positive potential to progress a common NJC grading structure and terms and conditions in all 22 local authorities within Wales.

At present the 22 local authorities in Wales manage 22 different versions job evaluation processes, giving 22 different grading profiles and differing terms and conditions.

This is a ludicrous and makes recruitment and retention of staff problematic with local government workers continuously migrating around the 22 local authorities.

The NHS in Wales has shown a different approach can work, operating an all Wales agenda for change policy with every Health Trust in Wales operating one job evaluation scheme, one set of terms and conditions and identical posts in all Trusts.

In the light of the above developments conference calls on the Service Group Executive to:

I)Work with the Cymru/Wales region to review the additional resources which will be required to positively engage with the developing Welsh government social partnership and fair work agenda;

II)Review the potential of the Social Partnership and Public procurement (Wales) Bill and the Fair Work programme in Wales and how this could be developed across the nations and regions of the UK;

III)Support and work with the UNISON Cymru/Wales Local Government committee in maximising the positive potential of these developments to develop a strategy to create common NJC grading structure and terms and conditions within Wales;

IV)To look at how a strategy for a common NJC grading structure in Wales could be rolled out across nations and regions of the UK, taking due note of the wishes and objectives set by the respective devolved nations and regions within UNISON;

V)Share information on the development the Social Partnership and Public Procurement (Wales) Bill and Wales Fair Work Programme with all nations and regions� Local Government Committees;

VI)To work with the Labour Link committee in developing and advancing these strategies.