Not knowing your own strength.
If IL had been in charge of the DWP GEC we would have made it clear that if the Department wanted changes to the contract then there had to be changes to the sick absence policy, to facility time, pay progression etc. The negotiations could not be a one-way street; if they wanted to bargain then it had to be on all issues raised, not just those they wanted to talk about. Even if DWP agreed to those changes the resultant proposal still might not be acceptable but at least it would have positive elements.
Now faced with our demand for a whole scale re-negotiation of the contract DWP may have refused and threatened to walk away. But that’s when calculation comes into it; do we need a deal; do they need us more than we need them?
On the latter the answer is ‘yes’.
The only way that the department can get a uniform change in hours of attendance and mobility is if the union agrees such changes. If the union does not, then DWP will have to go to each individual member of staff asking them to agree the new terms. If the union campaigns hard enough then many, hopefully a majority of staff will not sign up. Then DWP faces chaos. It could not easily programme Saturday working as each office would have a mixture of staff on the deal and those not on the deal. Indeed in many offices, Saturday working would therefore not be impossible. Without the changes in mobility, DWP could not force all staff to move offices in the way that it clearly will if the current deal is accepted.
So DWP has a lot to lose. We should keep that in mind.
Let’s address ‘do we need a deal’? The answer is ‘No – not if it is a bad one’. Just because a department wants something it doesn’t mean we have to give it to them. We have to know when to say NO. The DWP talks were just such an occasion. Instead senior managers got a YES.