Agreeing to work collaboratively has helped the Council and trades unions put the traditional ‘them and us’ relationship behind them.
Now, thanks to a new partnership agreement all parties are working closely together to improve services and minimise potential impact on the workforce.
With around 60% of council employees currently a member of a trades union, establishing a modern relationship was going to be fundamental to helping progress the Council of the Future programme of change.
Karen Algie, Head of Business Transformation & Human Resources, said: “Our former arrangements with the trades unions were not conducive to a modern working environment. By working together, we were able to redefine our relationship by writing the agreement that sets in stone a more open and honest partnership. The trades unions are now involved in decision making processes providing their views, ideas and advice to ensure we implement the right changes.
“We are never going to agree 100% on everything, but the partnership agreement allows us to have those debates and discussions right from the start. This is a journey and the next step we need to take together is to overcome one of the biggest hurdles to change – workforce culture.”
For the recognised trades unions - Education Institute of Scotland (EIS), GMB, Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association, Unison, Unite - creating the agreement was a way for them to support their members through change and ensure the focus was on service improvement not just savings.
Colin Finlay, EIS Falkirk – Secretary, said: “We have an industrial responsibility to our members to find solutions with council management and knew that the relationship we had simply wouldn’t help our members. There were no issues getting to this point, as everyone wants the same thing, but now comes the real test. We are committed to partnership working but recognise that we will have competing objectives and differences. The agreement won’t solve every issue and the trades unions are acceptant of that and will work to find a consensus.
“Clearly there is a focus on reducing council budgets but there is also an opportunity to improve services. The scale and depth of the budget gap also means the old top down style of management won’t work and has to change. Both the trades unions and management will need to work closer in an environment of trust and openness to support our members and management through the changes that lie ahead.
“I would recommend that all trades union members get involved and not be passive and disinterested in change as we have a real opportunity to shape our future.”
Photo: Representatives from the Council and trades unions meet regularly. Pictured (left to right) are Karen Algie, Colin Finlay, and Matthew Jenkins from Unite at their most recent meeting.