Unions slam employers' plans to scrap youth work pay settlement

By Adam Offord

| 01 February 2016

A row has erupted between unions and employers over plans to scrap a system for setting the pay of youth workers in England and Wales that has existed for more than half a century.

Plans to abandon the national pay grades for youth workers have been criticised. Picture: Phil Adams

Public sector unions say the plans by local government and voluntary sector employers to end the Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) agreement for youth and community support workers could see the terms and conditions and professional standing of youth workers undermined.

But employers say recent cuts to the number of workers covered by the JNC pay deal means there is “no case” for continuing with a separate national bargaining arrangement, and that youth workers will be moved to the same terms and conditions as other local government staff.

Roy Perry, chairman of the Local Government Association (LGA) employers’ side of the JNC, said: "The number of employees covered by the JNC has fallen significantly in recent years, with a reduction of about 45 per cent between 2008 and 2013.
 
“Many local authorities have already brought youth and community workers within the scope of the National Joint Council (NJC) [for Local Government Services] locally.
 
"Following a series of meetings with councils, there was a unanimous view that these separate arrangements should be brought to an end over a sensible period of time, and we will be offering councils advice on the steps that need to be taken locally."

The JNC, also known as the “pink book”, was established in 1961 and sets out a 32-point pay scale for youth community support workers, from £14,597 up to £39,173.

No decision on the timing of any transfer has been made, although the current two-year JNC agreement ends on 31 August 2016.

Unions have vowed to fight the move, as they say it could see youth workers lose pay and holiday entitlements when they are transferred to NJC employment terms, known as the “green book”.

Fiona Farmer, national officer for local government at Unite said: “Unite deplores the proposal to replace the pay and conditions [in] the pink book, with those of the green book.
 
“The pink book recognises the professional qualifications of youth and community workers and gives them longer annual holidays and better pay than those covered by the green book.”

Mike Short, senior officer for local government at Unison, added: “As well as negotiating pay and conditions for youth work, the JNC also oversees the sort of ratification and approval of youth work courses and degrees.

“If the JNC is wound up, what happens to the overseeing of the occupation and the integrity of it?”

Doug Nicholls, chair of youth work campaign group ChooseYouth, also criticised the plans.

“I hope everyone concerned about young people and vibrant, democratically-controlled local authority and voluntary sector services will lobby to save the JNC,” he said.

Unions are planning to launch a campaign against the move shortly.

Meanwhile, the National Youth Agency is to hold a meeting to discuss the implications that scrapping of the JNC has on youth worker qualifications and training later this month.

Employers represented on the JNC include the LGA, the Welsh Government Association and the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services (NCVYS). Employees are represented by Unite, Unison, the National Union of Teachers, and the University and College Union.

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