At a full Council meeting this morning (26 June) there was an agenda item proposing a change to the membership of the Appeals Panel and Grievance and Disputes Panel.
Parts of the report were considered by the SNP Group to be inaccurate as delays in Panel arrangements have not to date been caused by problems with elected member involvement but rather because Council Personnel departments are not reaching targets in arranging disciplinary hearings within target times and in one case only reaching 46% of the target.
Cllr. Lesley McDonald, SNP Shadow Spokesperson for Finance and Corporate pointed out how important these appeal arrangements are as they affect the livelihood of employees and especially at a time of such pressure on family budgets. She pointed out that the current system is working well and that having six councillors able to consider all the details of each case, listen to both management and union presentations, ask relevant questions and contribute to debate before decisions are reached. Reducing the number of elected members involved lessens the potential to take all matters into consideration especially given the complexity of some of the cases.
Only having three members on an appeal panel with a quorum of two effectively gives the decision to the Chair. Is this the best we can do to ensure natural justice for our employees and make sure their rights are observed?
Lesley said, “Panels are currently working well and the SNP Group sees no need for change. It is for the Council to ensure that the Personnel departments in Resources improve their efficiency and achieve time targets to arrange disciplinary hearings.”
Cllr. Sheena Wardhaugh, Depute Leader of the SNP Group, contributed to discussion and referred to para 8.2 of the report which stated “the Trades Unions have been advised of the proposed changes” however SLC have a partnership agreement with the unions which guarantees that the unions will be consulted. This is very different from being told two days before committee what will happen.
What can be more important than consulting unions on matters which affect the livelihood of their members and our employees?
The SNP Group proposed that the item be continued to allow for proper consultation with the unions however the Labour Group moved the report which, on a roll call vote, was carried by 35 votes to 23. Within the 35 votes were three Tory votes, just another demonstration that they are part of the administration rather than the Opposition.