Monday, February 25, 2013

Don't give up on 90 days!

The snappily titled Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (Amendment) Order 2013 (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukdsi/2013/9780111534106) comes into force on 6 April and reduces the statutory minimum consultation period when employers propose to make a hundred or more redundancies from 90 to 45 days.

This vindictive piece of legislation is plainly intended to weaken the hand of trade unions when bargaining to reduce redundancies, in circumstances in which the Workplace Employee Relations Study (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-2011-workplace-employment-relations-study-wers) suggests that we are already failing to make a difference in almost four out of five cases (http://www.jonrogers1963.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/redundancies-could-we-do-better.html?m=1).

Many managers will assume that they can immediately start relying on the new reduced minimum from the implementation date of 6 April. We needn't let it be that easy.

First, wherever collectively agreed redundancy procedures explicitly include a 90 day consultation period, we can rely upon the incorporation of that agreement into the contracts of individual employees.

In these circumstances, employers will need to seek our agreement to amend a collective agreement.

Failing that they would have to sack and re-engage employees in order to get round their contractual right to a 90 day consultation period (and - depending upon the wording of a local collective agreement - they might have to allow a 90 day consultation period before they did so).

This is likely to apply in many cases and, even where they may be doubt about the status or meaning of a redundancy procedure, it's worth asserting with confidence the best reading we can, since the employers' legal advice is often (to them) as depressingly cautious (from their point of view) as ours (is to us).

Secondly, those of us who work for Labour local authorities at least should insist that our employers follow Labour Party policy, as expressed in Parliament by the Opposition Front Bench, and agree as a matter of policy, to continue to observe the 90 day consultation period until it is restored by an incoming Labour Government (fingers crossed!)

A suitably robust position from a local trade union side, making the point that a realistic consultation period can be as much in the interests of the employer as of employees (if it saves money on redundancy payments for example) ought to give sympathetic Labour Councillors enough ammunition to shoot down any adverse officer advice.

Thirdly, and arising from the last point, we need now to be raising the specific demand, within the Labour Party, that a draft statutory instrument to restore 90 days should be ready to be laid before Parliament on the first day of a Labour Government. This should be one of the first things we expect, and if Front Bench spokespeople are to be taken at their word we ought to be pushing at an open door (http://www.jonrogers1963.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/employment-rights-and-possible-labour.html?m=1).

If the trade union leaders are serious about how we relate to the Labour Party, I won't have to post a model motion for Constituency Labour Parties on this blog, because I'll be able to post a link to such a motion on the website of one (at least) of the "Big Three."

Most importantly though, we rank and file activists have to be serious in the here and now, where hundreds of thousands of us are at risk of redundancy even before our Labour Party is given another opportunity to disappoint us.

Let's not give up on 90 days easily or readily. If we are to retreat in the face of Government attacks (as we have been since the bungling of the pensions dispute) it must at least be a fighting retreat.

Members - and potential members - don't expect us to be able to win every battle.

But they rightly expect us to try.

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

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