PCS union in DWP: How not to negotiate – part 4

Returning again to giving something for nothing.

In a recent circular, the union states:

 The proposed Collective Agreement includes the safeguards outlined above and if members vote to accept the agreement the safeguards will be part of the agreement with DWP.  The Collective Agreement gives PCS the opportunity to challenge any infringement and offers a degree of protection that wouldn’t exist without it.  This has formed an important part of the GECs decision to recommend acceptance of the Deal.

As part of the safeguards we are told:

…assurances for members with disabilities who, for example, need to work specific hours due to a medical condition and as a reasonable adjustment.  This will be protected.  While all members will take part in one to ones to discuss their working patterns, managers are still obliged to adhere to the Equality Act and continue with reasonable adjustments for those who need it.

And:

PCS also argued for protections for those who are not necessarily covered by the Equality Act – personal circumstances must be taken into account in determining individual’s hours.  This will include caring responsibilities, such as child care, elder care, and caring for disabled relatives.  Some members have expressed concerns about perverse decisions made by managers in the past and have little faith in their managers.  This is why PCS negotiated a clause which has been included in the Employee Deal where an independent panel will review any perverse decisions, the panel will include a TU rep and completely independent managers.  

When you boil it all down, the circular could be replaced by a one liner: DWP agree to obey equality law. Of course when said that way, all the safeguards don’t seem very impressive, as indeed they are not. The blunt truth is there is nothing substantive in the proposed deal that is above and beyond obeying the law.

Indeed the circular admits:

A primary aim of the PCS negotiators on the Employee Deal has been to ensure that any changes to terms and conditions are free from discrimination and that there are binding protections for members covered by the Equality Act. 

DWP are bound by law and the Equality duty to ensure that changes to terms and conditions are free from discrimination. To get DWP to agree that it must and will obey the law is not an achievement; they are supposed to do this anyway.

Indeed DWP would claim that the appraisal system ‘is free from discrimination and that there are binding protections for members covered by the Equality Act’.

If on the independent panel mentioned above, the TU rep had a veto then that would indeed be a serious safeguard but of course they do not. The managers are ‘completely independent’ in the same sense that that independent managers hear grievances and disciplinary cases. Indeed if you deconstructed the panel you just get at best a grievance hearing with managers hearing a case made on behalf of the member by the rep. But instead of the rep making the case in front of the managers and they then go away to make the decision, the rep is there when they make the decision.

You don’t need a Collective Agreement to give PCS an ‘opportunity to challenge any infringement’. The appraisal system is not such an agreement but PCS can still challenge infringements.

And the circular is wrong when it claims the agreement ‘offers a degree of protection that wouldn’t exist without it’. To repeat: we are not getting any more than a promise from DWP that it will obey the law. DWP promise that for all HR systems it runs.

Once again the LU majority are giving something (flexible attendance and greater mobility) for nothing (DWP to obey the law).

A final quote from the circular: ‘managers are still obliged to adhere to the Equality Act’. The fact that it has to say this in one way makes our case.

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