HC Deb 19 February 1992 vol 204 cc205-6W
Mr. Kirkwood

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) if he will make a statement outlining the legal provisions relating to the abolition of the General Whitley Council appeals machinery as set out in section 32 of the General Whitley Council;

(2) if he will explain the reasons for the abolition of the General Whitley Council appeals machinery; and what consultations he has had with Whitley Council representatives before deciding to do so;

(3) if he will set out the machinery he proposes to put in place of the provisions now revoked as a result of his abolition of section 32 of the General Whitley Council.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

The new conditions provide for employing authorities to introduce more straightforward local procedures after consultation with staff and local staff representatives.

Section 32 of the General Whitley Council provisions was seen increasingly as a cumbersome and ineffective way of handling differences of opinion between employing authorities and individual members of staff. Individual grievances which were not resolved at employing authority level were referred to a second level of appeal and, if again unresolved, to a third national level of appeal. There was no provision which required such appeals—which could be taken forward only by a professional organisation or trade union representing an aggrieved employee—to be finally resolved, and so many cases, some of which took a year or more to go through the system, were never resolved. This system did little to foster good industrial relations locally.

The management side of the General Whitley Council were in negotiations with the staff side for about four years to change the procedures until August 1991 when the talks broke down.

In the light of lack of progress the existing agreement was revoked and replaced by new conditions, using powers in paragraph 10 of schedule 5 of the National Health Services Act 1977 and regulations 3 and 4 of the National Health Service (Remuneration and Conditions of Service) Regulations 1991.

The new machinery is as follows:

Procedure for settling differences about conditions of service

  1. 1 The procedures set out below apply where an officer is aggrieved in relation to any matter affecting his conditions of service, but do not apply to settling differences relating to:—
    1. (a) dismissal or disciplinary matters,
    2. (b) disputes appropriate to resolution in accordance with section 33 of the General Whitley Council Handbook,
    3. (c) organisational change, or
    4. (d) matters for which it has been agreed that specific Whitley Council procedures will apply.
  2. 2. Subject to paragraph 1 above, an officer to whom this procedure applies may seek redress of his grievance in accordance with procedures determined by the employing authority. Those procedures shall be determined by the employing authority following consultation with staff and local staff representatives. The procedures shall be designed to provide for the speedy resolution of the grievance of an individual officer or servant as close as possible to its source. In establishing the procedures, regard should be had to good industrial relations practice such as that recommended by ACAS.
  3. 3. The procedures determined by employing authorities shall provide for the reference of grievances to a person or body other than the employing authority where the parties agree, in relation to a specific grievance, that the reference is appropriate.
  4. 4. Where the grievance relates to the application of a national agreement reached through the National Whitley Council, either party may seek clarification as to the intended interpretation of the agreement from the joint secretaries of the National Whitley Council if those secretaries agree to provide that clarification.

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