Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the National Union Group 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 of management.

  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 development strategy?

  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 proposals.

  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 England.

22 January 2002

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 26 March 2002