PCS BEIS Group newsbrief
To: All Members in ACAS
20 April 2018
Re: Talks on dispute and Anne Sharp’s email of 20 April 2018
You will have seen the communication from Anne Sharp on Friday, 20 April which details the proposal made to PCS to resolve the current dispute involving grade 9 conciliators.
In the context of dispute resolution and a stated desire to work with the trade union we find it strange that Acas has circulated the proposal, given that they have throughout the talks bound PCS in confidentiality with regards plans for staff deployment in 18/19. We received the proposals late on the afternoon of Wednesday, 18 April. We find ourselves forced today into a position where we need to comment on these proposals while still considering the detail. We were in fact about to respond when we were made aware of Anne Sharp’s publication of the proposal.
Our view is that, although there are some points which are welcome, there is not enough in the proposal to suspend the action planned to begin on 25 April.
At the heart of the dispute we believe that all conciliation should be performed at grade 9. The unilateral decision to downgrade some of the work to grade 10 was not done with any analysis or research, it was a simply an opportunistic way of redeploying displaced helpline staff with no regard to the personal impact on staff. We have consistently stated that there is a role for grade 10s in conciliation, and almost 2 years on Acas is no further on in service re-design and the conciliation service, like the helpline, is severely under resourced.
In terms of the specific proposals, we welcome the commitments under bullet points 1 to 4, the bulk of which any forward- thinking employer would be doing anyway – even in the absence of a requirement and obligation to do some of those things under the I and C agreement.
The substantive promotions in paragraph 5 are welcome. We hope further promotions can take place outside of the context of a dispute.
Paragraphs 6, 7 and 9 and the staffing table may have you a little confused but navigating through them it boils down to 200 full-time equivalent grade 9 staff and 70 full-time equivalent grade 10 staff in conciliation. Currently we are told that there are about 40 grade 10s in conciliation.
Our position is that there should be no further recruitment at grade 10 conciliation until the service re-design has been agreed between PCS and management, and the current 30 unfilled posts should be filled with grade 9s.
What is clearly missing is any detail on how many cases the 200 + 70 staff will be expected to handle in 18/19 and indeed what size of caseload a conciliator can expert to deal with. We have pressed hard on this and specifically asked for caseload data. Management state that it it is not possible to give a forecast as it’s not really based on anything. What we have been told is that the forecast for EC notifications is 110,000 and that returning ET1s will be 30,000. We consider that 30k returning ET1s is a modest figure as since the Supreme Court decision the number of returning ET1s has gone up exponentially. As ET1s are now to be given the same status as EC notifications we will no longer countenance them being excluded from caseload stats and missing from the figures. Indeed the same applies to case weightings, a measure introduced some time back and which in our view is simply to obfuscate the amount of cases being dealt with.
On a simple calculation 140k cases divided by 270 FTE staff is 518 cases.
Taking out 20% of ECs cleared by ECSO (due to incorrect respondent name) would be 437.
But remember the 270 FTE included duty cover (who do not have a caseload) so taking out ECSO clearances and dividing by 230 FTE staff would be 513 cases.
Remember also that it will be several months before the 270 FTE figure is recruited and trained and the 30,000 ET1 figure we believe is modest. Also management are hopeful that ECSO will knock out 30% but we believe that will simply bump up the number of returning ET1s.
We are firmly of the view that the service is severely under-resourced and Acas has made it clear that they are not prepared to go back to BEIS and ask for additional resource for us to staff the service appropriately. We have asked for sight of the business case they submitted to BEIS and despite saying they would share it we have yet to see it.
We welcome paragraphs 8 and 11 but significantly more work needs to be done for staff that Acas has a duty of care for. We know that members are at breaking point – working unreasonable hours with ridiculously high levels of work and always feeling like they are behind. We know members who are struggling to deal with the ever increasing levels of case work and never being able to get through it and helpline staff balancing training and mentoring new colleagues with relentless calls and little opportunity for respite and development activity.
On paragraph 12 we pointed out that management have themselves recognised the enormous contribution colleagues have made in difficult circumstances where they have done way in excess of what is expected, it is disappointing that despite this recognition management have refused to state that no one will get a box 3 marking (Improvement required) and demonstrates to us the lack of respect they have for our members who have worked so hard in such difficult times.
We are perplexed that so far the result of transformation have put our members in a much worse position, under unreasonable amounts of stress and pressure and is providing a lower level of service compared with our pre transformation position.
The PCS position continues to be that we want an agreed, properly funded, properly graded, properly resourced, regionally-based conciliation service.
We welcome management’s recruitment of grade 10s to the helpline and ECSO which we hope will help staff in those areas.
To convince PCS to agree to suspend the planned action and try to resolve the overall dispute, management must:
- Agree to recruit the 30 extra staff for conciliation as grade 9s, not grade 10s.
- Stop transformation until we have had the detailed talks on service redesign that is in the proposals.
PCS are still committed to resolving this dispute. We urge all members to remain resolute and support their colleagues in conciliation who are in the front line of this dispute at present.
PCS BEIS Group Secretary