Ofcom staff call for talks

Unions with members joining the new regulator have demanded full negotiations on their move.

In a letter to e-commerce and competitiveness Minister Stephen Timms, BECTU and other unions with members due to transfer to Ofcom have condemned the secrecy surrounding a consultants' report on proposed salaries and pensions.

Human Resources consultants Towers Perrin have been accused of finalising the report without holding open discussions with the unions whose members will be transferred from existing public bodies into super-regulator Ofcom when it begins operations. Unions have not even been told where Ofcom's office will be situated.

Prior to receiving the letter Stephen Timms had agreed to meet union representatives in mid-November, giving officials an opportunity to hammer home their anger at being kept in the dark by Towers Perrin.

Letter to Minister Stephen Timms

11th October 2002

Mr Stephen Timms MP
Minister for E-Commerce and Competitiveness
Department of Trade and Industry
1 Victoria Street

Dear Mr Timms,


Thank you for agreeing to meet the joint unions representing the staff employed by the regulators who will soon form part of Ofcom. I thought it might be useful for me to write to you in advance, outlining the major issues which we wish to discuss with you.

1. Towers Perrin Report to Lord Currie

At an early stage it was agreed that the joint unions would be fully consulted about the issues affecting our members, prior to the report going forward to Lord Currie. Despite several reminders, Towers Perrin have failed to consult with the unions. However at a meeting with the Shadow Ofcom HR Group on 8th October, representatives from Towers Perrin made a presentation on the issues on which they have reported to Lord Currie. These issues include pay, pensions, policies and procedures, staffing, and terms and conditions of employment. We believe it is unacceptable for a consultancy firm that is being paid for out of public funds to do such a report without consulting the recognised trade unions, and this could very well lead to a position where there will be a serious dispute with employers at the time of the creation of Ofcom. Therefore we are urging you that, without further delay, the joint unions should be provided, in confidence, with a copy of this report and the opportunity to be able to comment on it to all interested parties, including Lord Currie.

2. Pensions

Pensions is an area of much concern to people employed both inside the Civil Service and those employed by regulators who are not part of the Civil Service Pension Scheme. Those inside the Civil Service want the opportunity of remaining in the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme and see no reason why they should not remain part of the scheme. In addition, all staff need to know what future pension provisions are going to be available for current staff and new staff.

Coupled with this issue is the retirement age, and I am aware the DTI has agreed that all of its employees can work until aged 65. This is not something that has been afforded to the staff employed by the other regulators. We would also like assurances that this should not affect the right of people to retire early without loss of current pension entitlement.

3. Secondment from the DTI

The staff employed by the Radio Communications Agency, as you are aware, are all DTI employees and they will be seconded for two years to Ofcom. Under the current arrangements they have the right to apply to return to the DTI after this period. The question many members are asking is what would they be applying to go back to?

4. Job Losses

The joint unions recognise that there will be duplication of roles when Ofcom is set up, and we are hoping that, with goodwill on all sides, any redundancies can be dealt with through voluntary means or natural wastage. However it causes great anxiety to our members when they read press reports that state senior sources have briefed the press on up to 200 job losses at the time of the creation of Ofcom. Again, this emphasises the need for an open dialogue with the trade unions at the earliest possible stage.

5. Location of Head Office/Regional Offices

The location of the head office of Ofcom and the arrangements for regional offices are issues we believe Towers Perrin have dealt with in their report. Again, this affects our members and we believe we should have the opportunity to input into this debate and to be consulted on any decisions reached.

6. Future Pay Bargaining

A number of different pay bargaining systems are in place across the current regulators. The joint unions are committed to single table top bargaining which will deliver transparency in both pay and grading structure. We hope that the government can encourage the Ofcom board to support this method of collective barraging for the future.

If you have any queries prior to our meeting please do not hesitate to contact me. Otherwise I look forward to meeting you on 19th November.

Yours sincerely,

Assistant General Secretary

On behalf of the following unions: FDA,PCS,IPMS,BECTU


16 October 2002