UNISON has submitted the following questions to full council on 10/11/2015. We hope the mayor will provide a positive response, indicating his support for UNISON’s work and opposition to the Trade Union Bill.
Bristol’s improving public services and good industrial relations have been achieved thanks to open minds and strong partnership working from unions and employers. Some examples of this in Bristol City Council are:
• Introduction of a new “Bristol Contract” for all employees through a collective agreement
• A council – wide restructure in 2014 saving £21m with only 4 compulsory redundancies
• A successful Job Evaluation scheme “owned” by employer and employees
• Robust structures for corporate and departmental negotiations
• Numerous service reviews supported by the trade unions
By introducing excessive legalistic barriers and limiting the freedom of workers to organise among themselves, the government’s Trade Union Bill undermines partnership working and paves the way for bad, autocratic firms to undercut good, fair ones. Does the mayor therefore agree that the Trade Union Bill is a threat to public services and to prosperity, and pledge to lobby relevant ministers to drop the bill or amend its contents in partnership with the trade unions and business?
The mayor is a keen advocate of devolution and on this we agree – more power in the hands of people doing jobs on the ground is a key ingredient of better and more innovative jobs and services
However, the Trade Union Bill is the direct opposite of localism. It gives widespread new powers to the government to ban strikes and impose vaguely-worded but harshly applied regulations onto trade unions – this country’s biggest local voluntary bodies.
Will the mayor raise the anti-localist nature of the Bill with relevant ministers, and if they do not relent, ensure that any further devolution that involves Bristol includes the freedom to determine our own industrial relations, in a similar way to the flexible business regulations that exist in some areas of the city?
Civic volunteering is a great British tradition and something that visitors to Bristol often mark as a good quality of our city – the high levels of community engagement bring increased welfare and better neighbourhoods for so many of our residents.
Trade unions are the way that ordinary Bristolians organise at work – over 100,000 of us are members of a trade union. We volunteer our time – I am a rep / officer / etc – to ensure fairness and decency in the world of work.
Does the mayor think that it is trade unions that need cracking down on as the government is attempting to do in its Trade Union Bill, or should the government in fact be celebrating the British people at work? If he does think the latter, will he organise a celebration of trade unionism in Bristol before next spring and commission a report into the contribution of trade unionists to Bristol’s economy and society, to be presented to the government at the first possible opportunity?
David Ashby Styles
Agency workers perform an important job filling in gaps and are often multi-skilled and adaptable individuals. However, many of them are disturbed by the Government’s idea in the trade union bill that they will be put to work breaking strikes and thereby undermining their neighbours, colleagues and friends.
Does the mayor agree with the Recruitment and Employment Federation that the Trade Union Bill should not allow agency workers to be used to break strikes, and therefore the Bill should be opposed if it still contains this provision?
Industrial relations is about employers and workers coming together to reach a fair and decent outcome for all. It is about negotiation, balancing interests, and above all solutions to problems.
Finding answers to workplace questions is not always easy or fast. It is essential therefore that each side respects the other and has a fair opportunity to put their case.
So the government’s trade union bill is a threat to good workplace relations, because it enables bad employers to obstruct the negotiation process by jumping on minor technicalities that the union may have missed due to human or administrative error. Such legalistic nitpicking adds nothing to the productivity of services and instead draws out conflict.
Does the mayor agree that the point of industrial relations debates is solutions to real problems, not obstruction from one side? Will the Mayor take action on this by writing to the minister to remove the enhanced regulation from the Trade Union Bill, and establish and champion a Bristol charter of good employers that sets out a fair framework for workplace relations?
The Westminster government seems to be Janus-faced on the status of public service workers. On the one hand it wants to cut our terms and conditions, yet on the other it is trying to gain the power to designate us “essential” and thus unable to strike.
Will the mayor fight this discrepancy by pressuring the government to establish a fully funded and supported Royal College for any group of workers designated essential under the Trade Union Bill’s provisions, and where a Royal College already exists, ensure that appropriate representatives of that profession are consulted before such decisions are made?
Inequality is far too high in Bristol. People from one part of the authority get vastly different chances in life to those in another. For a man born in my ward of Southville, life expectancy is 74 – yet for someone growing up on the other side of the city in Henleaze it is 84. What’s the cost of inequality in Bristol? 10 years off of someone’s life. This is unfair and unjust and we must take steps to reduce this gulf.
A prime weapon against inequality is the trade union movement. The New Economics Foundation published a report showing that if Britain had stronger unions there would be better wages for workers and a more prosperous economy as that money is spent in British businesses supporting British jobs.
Does the mayor agree that as a key part of the fight against inequality, the government should be promoting trade unions, rather than demonising them as they are in the Trade Union Bill? Will he take steps accordingly to promote the facts about trade unions in Bristol and to pressure the government to reflect this in their legislation – to start with by dropping the incompetent trade union Bill?
In my role as a UNISON worker I have seen firsthand the effects of workplace stress: mental health issues, family troubles, and workers unable to do their jobs properly.
The 2014 Labour Force Survey showed that 11.3 million days per year are lost to stress and depression – 20 times as many as are lost to strikes.
It is trade union reps who are on the front line fighting bad workplace practice and ensuring that people have the support they need to prosper at work. Often reps themselves are so over-worked as to suffer from stress and anxiety issues.
Does the mayor join me in commending the work of trade unions in preventing workplace stress, and will he therefore call for the secretary of state to halt his attempt to reduce facilities time allowances, and instead convene a review of workplace mental health that develops the role of trade unions in protecting Britain’s workers?
I am an admin worker at UWE and member of UNISON. In day to day working many minor and less minor issues arise that are worked out between our elected representatives in the unions on the one hand, and management and HR on the other.
In my experience this is a largely successful process and where it is not, ACAS exists to help. The low number of days lost to strikes – roughly 600,000 a year since 2010, as opposed to 7 million or more in the 1980s – suggests our current model works.
It seems to me that more government powers over unions are totally unnecessary. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
So who does the mayor trust more to build good industrial relations: businesses and unions working together, or Westminster acting unilaterally? And if he does trust Bristol residents to manage their own affairs, will he write publically to the Secretary of State asking him to drop the dangerous Trade Union Bill and instead work with relevant groups to improve industrial relations in a reasonable and evidence based manner?