Thursday, October 12, 2006

20 boroughs miss launch meeting of new forum for London local government

It would be fair to say that the inaugural meeting of the Greater London Employment Forum (GLEF) lived up to its promise (since it didn't have much). The trade unions turned out a fairly full team, but on the employers’ side only thirteen of the thirty two boroughs were represented at a body the purpose of which is (according to its constitution) “to provide a forum where London employer and employee representatives can meet to discuss and debate employment matters of concern to the London authorities and their workforces”. It wasn’t just a Tory boycott, Councils of various political hues were not represented at the meeting – how can we debate and discuss with local authorities who fail to attend???

The slightly unreal nature of the meeting was reinforced by the implausibly upbeat reports from the employers’ side on the issue of negotiating on single status. The employers’ side Conservative Chair, Councillor Angela Harvey from Westminster gave a very optimistic overview, reinforced by a similarly positive report from the Labour Vice-Chair, Councillor Christine Bowden from Newham. The UNISON representative from Newham, Irene Stacey, made a point of singling out her employer for praise.

It was left to union side Vice Chair, David Eggmore of UNISON and Chair, Justin Bowden of the GMB to point out that things might not be quite as rosy as the employers thought and that the unions were preparing for legal action against employers who failed to comply with their obligation to complete a pay and grading review by 31 March next year in order to deliver equal pay and single status. Elsewhere in the country this issue has already led to significant industrial action (for example in Coventry).

As I have blogged here before, the unions are preparing a protocol whereby we will work jointly to collate information on the progress of local negotiations and decide which local authorities to target for litigation.

As well as discussing single status, the meeting considered issues to be debated at future meetings – if we debate other vital questions such as the Local Government Pension Scheme or the Race Relations Amendment Act I only hope more of the 33 local authorities entitled to attend the meeting can bother to turn up!

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