Memorandum submitted by the National Union
Group of the Arts Council and Regional Arts Boards
ARTS DEVELOPMENT: THE REORGANISATION OF THE
ARTS COUNCIL AND REGIONAL ARTS BOARDS
The National Union Group was formed in response
to the Arts Council's original proposals for change initiated
in March 2001. MSF and UNISON represent the majority of employees
of the Arts Council and the Regional Arts Boards.
Representatives have been working together with
full-time officials to co-ordinate responses to the proposals
and to provide commentary on the schedule and process of the change
process. We have also been working to ensure that management has
met their duties and responsibilities under the legislation, specifically
with regard to consultation.
Since October 2001, following continued requests
from the union group, the unions and management are now meeting
regularly in a national forum. This group is meeting for consultative
purposes and is not replacing necessary negotiations and consultations
at a local level. The object of the forum is to provide consistency
in the distribution of documentation, to consult on proposals
and policies as well as receive commentary from the unions on
matters raised by the potential merger and transfer.
The unions want to see a stable, credible national
structure for the funding and developing the arts.
The unions wish to see full and proper consultation
on all aspects of the proposals but most specifically on the staffing
structure and personnel related policies of the new organisation.
The unions have consistently requested timely
and meaningful consultation on the detailed staffing structure
of the new organisation. However, in all the plans and proposals
put forward by management it has been made clear that such discussions
will not begin until after the date of transfer. Employees have
made it clear to their union representatives that wish to know
what the organisation will look like and what their likely place
within it will be.
Management of the Arts Council has taken legal
advice that would suggest to carry out such consultation prior
to transfer would result in staff taking constructive dismissal
claims against their employers.
The unions have also taken legal advice, which
suggests this is not a reasonable response. We have been informed
that if the consultation does not take place the employers may
well be in breach of the TUPE regulations particularly regulation
10. This places the employer(s) under a duty to inform and consult
"long enough before a transfer" is to take place and
to consult particularly on the "legal, economic and social
implications of the transfer for the affected employees".
Meaningful consultation requires adequate time.
However, staffing and personnel issues such as assimilation and
selection are only just being raised with union representatives.
The unions are concerned that lip service is being paid to consultation
and this is leading to low morale and a lack of faith in the promises
This is currently a time of great stress and
uncertainty for all staff; however, they would rather undergo
a longer period of transition if it meant that full consultation
on the staffing structure could take place.
Staff are at a loss to know how the promises
made by the Arts Council in their proposals can be delivered if
nobody knows who will be needed to deliver them.
A further concern is that if consultation on
detailed staffing structure is not held prior to transfer what
guarantees will there be to ensure equality, parity and coherence
across separately devised staffing structures and across the whole
country. For instance will an agreed job evaluation system be
designed in order to ensure fairness and consistency in the process
of harmonisation following transfer?
Can the employers involved either morally or
legally transfer staff into a situation where their futures are
not clear or certain. A promise of no compulsory redundancies
for the first 12 months following transfer, made by management,
has not resolved the questions, concerns or anxieties of staff.
As well as a lack of clarity about the financial
and human resources available to deliver work within the Arts
Council and the regions staff are also concerned that there is
a lack of information on transfer of pensions, and a timetable
relating to negotiations with staff, particularly on changes to
terms and conditions of employment.
There is a promise that pension terms will be
maintained; however, staff are alarmed that the Arts Council management
has not yet been able to advise us on how this will work, or to
provide any details. There are even plans to transfer payrolls
without any new pension arrangements being in place.
The unrealistic timetables that have been proposed
so far at every stage of this reorganisation process combined
with withholding of information, leaves staff lacking confidence
in the intentions and viability of FutureOrg.
There is currently no organisation structure,
business plan or budget available for the new organisation. However,
the management have committed themselves to making savings of
£8-10 million by creating a new single organisation. It has
not been made clear how the proposals will reap these savings
and deliver the objective of improving services to the arts in
England. The unions want to know where these savings will come
from. We are concerned that, if they can be made at all, they
will be made at the expense of staff.
Since July the National Union Group has been
asking for information on the implications for staff of these
planned cost savings. No detail has been provided.
As of yet, the Arts Council has not specified
the financial package available to each region to develop its
own staffing structure. How can this guarantee to the arts in
the regions delivery of an improved and effective funding and
We have concerns that the costs involved in
creating the new organisation will be immense and outweigh any
possible savings. The unions would want to know what the total
transition costs of moving to a single organisation would be.
The Union group would wish to share an example
of what the possible impact of making the proposed savings could
be mean to staff. If savings are made on office accommodation
in London, if functions are to come out of the centre, which in
rents and rates currently costs the Arts Council £2.09 million,
this will still leave the organisation needing to find at least
£6 million in order to reach its targets.
The financial statements of the Regional Arts
Boards and the Arts Council show that the average staff cost per
person across the system is just under £27,000. In order
to save the remaining £6 million, the new organisation would
need to make 222 redundant out of the 625 currently employed by
the Arts Council and Regional Arts Boards. This would be if all
London offices were closed which is highly unlikely and not something
the unions would support because of the effect on staff and jobs.
This is not a feasible direction for cost savings and it would
severely affect the ability of the organisation to maintain, develop
and expand services to the Arts in England.
Staff are particularly concerned about the setting
of priorities for the organisation without real consultation or
research. Particularly concerning to staff in the regions is
the lack of understanding by Arts Council management about the
way; regional arts boards currently undertake cross-cutting work
with partners to deliver joint objectives. Also, the inevitable
conflict between the top down model that is proposed and regional
decision-making that has just been paid lip service to in the
The Unions have sought to raise the two most
important issues staffing matters and finances. We do have other
concerns but have to focus our energies and efforts in protecting
our members jobs, terms and conditions whilst seeking to ensure
a credible arts funding system is in place.
In the light of the concerns we have raised
in this evidence it is difficult for staff to face this planned
merger with any sense of confidence or ease of mind that it will
be good either for staff or for the development of the arts in
22 January 2002