Essex County Council

Most UNISON members in Essex County Council are subject to the National Agreement on Pay and Conditions of Service, the ‘Green book.’ You are entitled to ask management to see this though we suspect that very few ECC establishments have copies easily available.

Other conditions, including those like car allowances, where the County has departed from the Green book, are detailed on the Intranet under “Working Here”.



Letter from UNISON to Tim Coulson, Director for Education & Learning:

26 September 2013

Dear Tim Coulson

Essex Youth Service Public Consultation

This is a joint correspondence on behalf of UNISON & UNITE.

We wish to make it known in the strongest terms that we are unhappy with the public announcement made on 24th September 2013 in respect of the aforementioned service.

The tried & tested approach taken by Essex County Council is based upon an agreed documented process. We are very disappointed that the authority has chosen to disregard this process and has apparently actively chosen not to follow it.

This is not acceptable to the unions.

The Trade Union Forum had not been made aware of this proposal and have not to date been consulted with or given the opportunity toidentify any queries or concerns ahead of the proposal being made public.

The Unions have received no pre-emptive briefing, we have not been provided with relevant documentation appertaining to this proposal.

One fundamental concern is that we understand from our respective members & staff that they were briefed regarding this announcement on the day before it was made and felt they were presented with a fait accompli. lf this is the case, then clearly the suggestion that this process is about ‘consultation’ public or otherwise is misleading at best, and certainly is an issue that the public and staff should be made aware of.

We would ask for an urgent response to the following questions:

Why did Essex County Council not follow its own agreed processes in dealing with the recognised trade unions?

ls Essex County Council seeking to work with the unions in a manner which is covered by agreed processes from this point onwards?

What is the intended timeframe for public consultation and any arising process thereafter?

Can all relevant documentation including any business case be provided to the unions?

Has an equality impact assessment been undertaken in connection with any of proposals? lf so can a copy be supplied to the unions? lf not why not?

what is the proposed structure for youth service provision?

How many employees will this affect?

What impact will this have on the young people of Essex, their families & the communities they live within?

How will Essex County Council seek to mitigate any negative impact of any proposed service reduction?

What will happen to the projects and programmes that the youthService currently provide?

what information will be given at the staff briefings and when will they take place?

We will be consulting our members as to the current situation and ask for an urgent response to the issues contained herein.

Yours Sincerely

Sue Gainey

Julie Saggers


CC. Councillor Finch

Emma Sayers

Mike O’Brien







Performance Related Pay




UNISON has been unhappy with the various forms of
performance appraisal scheme that the county has introduced up to and including
‘my performance’. Now that we are at the end of the appraisal year and the
county is saying that it will review the scheme (again!?) we want to know what
you think. We may also be able to offer assistance if you have specific
problems with your own result.



At present the appeal process is purely paper based and has no UNISON involvement – both things to which we object.

  • But we can advise you on whether and how to appeal within the existing system.
  • There is an appeal mechanism on the Intranet – see Working Here/ Performance/ my performance.If you want to discuss an appeal contact your local steward/ UNISON rep, or
  • Ring the UNISON office. tel: 01245 354044/ ednet 20913.
  • Email the UNISON office or




 We agree. We think that there should be:

  • Fairer treatment of employees under the performance management system.
  • Removal from the scheme of the ‘normal distribution’ of grading which is allegedly pushing some staff who have met their objectives into the partially and not met categories, which in turn denies them incremental progression or a pay rise.
  • An opportunity to pursue an appeal in person including the right for a UNISON representative to put the case.
  • Unison representation on the moderation and appeals panels.
  • More flexible arrangements regarding allocation of the budget for performance reward to allow team rewards as well as reward for individuals.
  • Full recognition for the additional work that staff are being required to carry out as a result of redundancy of colleagues.


What else needs doing to improve the system? Let us know your views –

you don’t have to give a name and contact details but it would help in case we want to discuss further the ideas you have.



Let the Cuts Begin

Today staff within 7 children’s homes will be told that outsourcing could be the option put to councillors on the 7th December, and taken to full Council in March 2011.

The seven homes are:

  • The Chestnuts
  • The Limes
  • The Lodge
  • The Meadows
  • The Old Manse
  • The Sailings
  • The Willows

The Leverton Secure Unit and Children with Disabilities Children’s Homes will not be included and will stay with Essex County Council.

Manager will be the first to be told then they will cascade information down to staff.

UNISON are concerned as Essex County Councils record on outsourcing is appalling.

Example 1

Essex County Council outsourced care homes to Excelcare who treated staff appallingly leaving UNISON no option but to lodge a claim with the Employment Tribunal. Happily UNISON was successful in it’s bid to obtain justice for ex Essex County Employees. Subsequently one of the outsourced homes in Colchester was closed due to the disgusting conditions in which residents were expected to live.

Example 2

Essex County Council had to pay British Telecom a substantial sum to terminate the contract early as the services BT provided were below standard.

Maybe third time lucky

But are Essex County Council willing to take risks with young peoples’ futures, young people who may have had troubled lives in the past?

These children/adults deserve the best we can give them. When will service users be consulted or once again is a third party going to take the important decisions?

UNISON will support both staff and children to keep the homes within Essex County Council rather than outsourcing them to a company whose only interest will be in the potential for profit.

Grey Skies Over Essex County Council Staff

The new government may be talking of blue skies but for people employed by Essex County Council the future looks bleak.

UNISON have seen documents including proposals for the following reductions in staff and / or conditions of employment. These include:

  • Reducing the number of employees by 85 full time equivalents.
  • Cease bonus payments for the lowest paid employees (band 1 to 4). These payments are available to staff on theses bands who have reached the top of their grade and can range from £100 to £300. Staff at this level include most of those who deliver front line services to the public as well as many of those who support them.
  • No pay for the first day of sickness. Essex is also looking to see how much they would save if they did not pay for the first 2 days or even the first 3 days.
  • Reducing the working week from 37 hours to 36 or 35 per week. This sounds good but they are not going to pay for the reduction in hours so staff will lose 1 or 2 hours pay. On top of this they are looking into the above they are freezing any pay claim for 2 years.

“We have raised our concerns with the Council today and have been told that no decisions have been made on these proposals as yet. However, it is extremely disappointing that they never approached us to talk about these issues. There will be a severe impact on the services our members provide for the people of Essex and staff morale if these proposals are approved”

These discussions have taken place behind closed doors maybe while they were making the decision that they give councillors a 6.1% Payrise and £41,000 for lunches, £7,000 FOR biscuits and finally £15,000 for tea & coffee!

Performance Related Pay – Essex County Council

12th May 2010

Please find attached a letter which Babs Whitfield, the Branch Secretary, has sent to HR today regarding Bands 5 & 6, together with a form of words which members can print off to say they are accepting the changes but under protest. RELATED PAY.doc (in a new window) letter for Members.doc (in a new window)

Please contact the Babs at the Branch Office (01245 354044) if you have any questions regarding this.

Update – 7th July 2010

Please note, negotiations are continuing and the advice above still applies.

My Performance

As staff within Schools, Children and Families will be aware, a letter has been sent to all line managers stating that the percentage of staff who had “fully met” their performance objectives cannot be justified and therefore are not in line for the Directorate’s performance this year.

Consequently, managers were asked to review their judgements by 19th April.

We are strongly urging members to use the Authority’s appeal procedure (My Performance Appeal (in a new window)) if the decision that you have “fully met” your objectives has been changed, as UNISON believes this is totally unacceptable that this should happen at such a late stage. Some of our members have made successful appeals with the support of the Branch

If you are a UNISON member and would like support with an appeal, please contact the Branch Office on 01245 354044.

Babs Whitfield

Branch Secretary

Capability and Disciplinary Policy

Unison has been in negotiations with ECC to try to cut down on cases going to a full disciplinary hearing. The new policy will enable managers to intervene and take responsibility instead of suspending members. This year we have been involved in over 160 disciplinaries – resulting in a lot of work for Unison Branch Officers and HR, and these are just the ones we counted!

Sept 09

Performance Related Pay

At a meeting on Pay and Perfomance on 24th September, the issue of moving staff onto “Pay and Performance” conditions remained unsolved as UNISON’s position was, and still remains, that continuing with this policy is unfair in the light of the new developments announced by Lord Hanningfield stating that Essex would become a commissioning authority and would not deliver services. This will obviously have massive implications for all Essex staff on Grades 5 and 6. It would mean that these staff, if moved onto “Pay and Performance” conditions, would be vulnerable as the future is unspecified and uncertain ie. at this point in time we have no idea of where their posts will be moved to, and who their employer might be. Our position is that, until future developments have been fully clarified, staff should remain on their existing terms and conditions. However, UNISON is happy to continue to discuss this with management and hopes for a satisfactory resolution.

Mick Mahoney Branch Secretary

October 2009

At a recent meeting, the UNISON Branch Secretary, Mick Mahoney, made it clear that with the pending “transformation” proposals, it would be unfair for UNISON to agree a path where we could be sending staff to the private sector on a scheme which, we feel, would put staff at a disadvantage.

We have asked the employer on numerous occasions how much money would be put aside in the budget for this.

One good piece of news is that those staff who were transferred to Essex Cares will not compulsorily be moved over but can opt in if they wish.

Babs Whitfield, Assistant Branch Secretary

September 2009

ECC’s long running campaign to put all Band 5 and 6 staff on to performance Related Pay (PRP) has reached a new stage.

You will recall that the Council has steadfastly refused over a period of years to negotiate over the scheme.

The Council has recently written to all those affected giving them a final opportunity to opt into the scheme. Anyone not opting in by 30th September will be forced into the scheme by April next year.

The PRP scheme takes away: Annual increments for this group of staff; Cost of living awards which in future will only be available to those staff meeting the performance targets laid in the ‘my performance’ documents. So if you are in Bands 5 and 6 make the most of next year’s cost of living award (if there is one) as it will be the last you will receive.

The Council envisages that 5%, around 75 people out of this group of staff, will receive no increase at all in the national year used in the example.

For the vast majority (90%) of the staff in this group any increase will be a maximum of 6%

To get 6% individuals will have to deliver over and above ‘clear and stretching objectives and often go beyond their remit to deliver superior performance’.

A very smalll number (around 5%) may get more than 6% if they ’exceed expectations in all aspects of their role against clear and stretching objectives’.

And there is no guarantee that the Council will continue to use these norms in future years. Evidence from the PRP scheme already in operation for more senior managers suggests that as the financial squeeze has tightened that ‘pool’ available has shrunk.

UNISON still feels that the scheme is unfair, unworkable and divisive.

Readers may recall that when the Council first invited staff to opt in they achieved a derisory level of voluntary acceptance, 10%

The Council has since forced all new starters from outside into these grades into the scheme and anyone who has been promoted into theses grades. Even then it has only managed to get around 40% support for it.

IBM – The partner of choice?!

As members in Essex County Council will know by now, IBM is the Council’s preferred ‘transformation partner’. We are assured that no contracts have been signed but IBM are already working on a number of projects on which they have to deliver at least a statement of intent before the Council meeting on October 13 at which the whole thing will be debated. If the Council meeting goes according to plan (and with a Conservative majority in the dozens, this seems highly likely) the contracts will be signed sometime thereafter. Let’s hope that the due diligence and other contract processes will be better than they were with the BT contract!

The Council’s intentions were further clarified by a leak in August of part of a paper about the HR strategy for the next few years. This follows Lord Hanningfield’s words to the unions a few years ago that in ten years’ time he expected there to be only 2,000 people working for the Council instead of over 10,000 (schools are excluded from both calculations.) The latest paper says, amongst other things, that

‘The organisation’s core competency will have shifted form care delivery and service delivery to policy partnerships and procurement …’

This could well mean that the 800 staff who have just become part of the arms length ‘Essex Cares’ company will not be the last to find themselves employed by someone for whom they did not choose to work.

Apart from anything else IBM is already running the back office functions in Somerset County Council, Avon and Somerset Police and Taunton Deane District Council in that county. IBM staff involved in Essex are surely calling on experience from their colleagues in South West One (as it is known.) An extension of this to take over running the functions would not seem unexpected. Anyone fancy moving to Taunton?

The so-called ‘Gold’ projects on which IBM is already working (with teams of people from ECC) have been selected although it is difficult to understand, from the descriptions given, what exactly they are intended to do.

To save us reproducing them here you can look at the entries on the Intranet on Finance and Procurement transformation and on the ‘customer excellence channel strategy’ which includes gems such as knowing who our customers are and their expectations. (If you can’t access the intranet contact Branch Office and we can send you the relevant paperwork).

One would have hoped that an organisation which has been in existence for as long as ECC probably should know the stuff that is there already. None of them would win a ‘Crystal Mark’ for plain English.

The projects already under way are being run in line with the ‘lean’ philosophy which IBM has used in many places before. The Civil Service has been a particular beneficiary/ victim of this and if you talk to staff in DWP and other central government departments you may learn something of the effects – it is not popular with the rank and file!

UNISON is still opposed to the whole project and will continue to do what it can to stop it but with the previously mentioned political majority we have to plan for the worst case scenarios. UNISON branch officers, together with the union’s Regional Head of Local Government have continued to meet both senior ECC officers and IBM. We have discussed visiting other IBM work sites to gain some insight into their working practices. We shall also be contacting Somerset UNISON branches for their experience.

Members who have contact with IBM are invited to get in touch with the branch office to let us know anything they find out but also so that if any statements are made about future working practices or employment we can raise these at the highest level.

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