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First test for new social partnership law as private operator says it wants to scrap union recognition

21 Sep 2023 5 minute read
St David’s Hall. Image via Google

The decision by Wales’ largest council to outsource one of Wales’ foremost concert halls to a private company is providing the first challenge to a landmark piece of legislation recently passed by the Senedd.

The Social Partnership and Public Procurement (Wales) Act is intended to entrench and improve workers’ rights and create the conditions for harmonious industrial relations.

But according to the trade union Unison, AMG Live Nation, the firm due to take over the running of St David’s Hall in Cardiff has indicated that it wants to scrap trade union recognition at the venue.

One of the Act’s provisions obliges public bodies in Wales that outsource services to “include any social public workforce clauses it considers should be included” and “to ensure that clauses included in the contract can be implemented”.

AMG’s stance appears to be in conflict with that.

Staff at St David’s Hall, including some who have worked there for more than 30 years, have been told by AMG that unions will no longer be recognised.

The venue, which has played host to stars from Tom Jones to Elton John, is currently closed due investigations into Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) being discovered at the premises.

It is in the process of being handed over to AMG by Cardiff Council which claims it can no longer afford the running costs.

Safety net

A worker at St David’s Hall said: “I have been a member of a trade union working for Cardiff Council for more than 30 years and, through no choice of my own, this could come to an end.

“It’s vital to me and all my colleagues that we know we have the support of our union in the workplace.

“Unison has always been there for us and, without that safety net, we are all vulnerable.”

Unison Cardiff branch secretary Emma Garson said: “Unison was shocked and appalled when AMG confirmed it was not going to honour Cardiff Council’s long and proud history of trade union relations.

“By supporting staff in all aspects of workplace discussions, trade unions can help to resolve issues before they escalate.

“This would also benefit the employer in the long run.”

Unison Cymru regional secretary Jess Turner said: “Unison was a key driver behind the social partnership bill brought in by the Welsh Government earlier this year to place workers’ voices at the heart of decision making in Wales.

“If AMG wants to expand in Wales, then it must be prepared to enter into meaningful engagement with unions.”

Protected

A Cardiff council spokesman said: “The council has been progressing a process to transfer St David’s Hall to Academy Music Group to secure investment in the building and to eliminate the circa £1m annual revenue cost of running the venue. Under this process staff currently employed at the Hall would transfer to AMG with their existing terms and conditions protected under TUPE legislation.

“In preparing for the transfer, discussions will take place with unions. The specific nature of any agreement is yet to be finalised and would need to be agreed between the unions and AMG before the staff transfer.

“However, the forced closure of St David’s Hall, due to the change in government advice relating to the use of RAAC in buildings, has delayed this process for the time being. The way forward will depend on the level of intervention required, if required.

“In the meantime the council will continue to work with all stakeholders to resolve any concerns, and will hold regular meetings with staff to keep them abreast of the situation as it unfolds.”

A spokeswoman for AMG said the company was considering its response.

Concerns have been expressed previously about Live Nation’s employment practices.

‘Near poverty wages’

In 2015 the Los Angeles Times reported how the company was using a sub-contractor called Crew One in Atlanta to pay stage crew “near poverty wages”.

The LA Times reported: “The Crew One stagehands are not subject to the contracts Live Nation has signed with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, or IATSE, for shows in which Live Nation is the direct employer. Union scale for stagehands in Atlanta runs from $18 to $26 an hour; employers also are required to contribute to IATSE’s retirement and health insurance funds. (In Los Angeles, union rates are higher: At Staples Center, for instance, staffers earn a minimum of about $32 an hour.)

“When Live Nation works through Crew One, however, the technical workers are paid as little as $9 an hour — a hair above Georgia’s minimum wage of $7.25 — according to testimony delivered by Crew One General Manager Jeff Jackson at a National Labor Relations Board hearing in April 2014. It pays no health or retirement benefits.

“Crew One’s ‘independent contractors’ have to provide their own hard hats, rigging ropes and steel-toed work boots, which are required on the job. Crew One provides no safety training, Jackson acknowledged, though “The cost to misclassified workers can be enormous. Pay and work conditions at Crew One reached the point that its workforce voted by nearly a 2-1 margin to unionise through IATSE — a genuine achievement for workers with little job security in a region traditionally hostile to union organizing. Since then, however, Crew One has refused to bargain with the union, arguing that it can’t legally be forced to negotiate with ‘independent contractors’.”


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Hywel Davies
Hywel Davies
5 months ago

Sadly, this was very predictable. Cardiff council have sold off a precious community asset to a very dodgy operator. This company has a long history of exploitation and has shown no respect for keeping to commitments. This is a litmus test for the Labour administration in Cardiff. Will they stand up for the workers at Saint David’s Hall or just pocket the money and look away ? What on earth has happened to the Labour Party ?

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
5 months ago

It is utterly disgusting that a LABOUR run county council should sell their workers down the river in such a way. Cardiff County Council leadership should hang their heads in shame at this utterly shabby deal they have done with a company that not only does not recognise unions, but is also involved with the exploitation of workers, not ensuring their safety and in short, overseeing a return to the working conditions of the 19th century where workers have to provide their own safety equipment.

For LABOUR, see TORY!

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
5 months ago

The rise and fall of Cardiff in the blink of a sloth’s eye…

Shut up and play with your new train set…

Politicians and Kings: I would not use my fluids to extinguish the flames

Last edited 5 months ago by Mab Meirion
Jeff
Jeff
5 months ago

Alarm bells should be ringing. No unions can have many issues and that is health and safety (workers and public), workers rights, wages levels, forced zero hour contracts, working time directives and many more problems that will be hard to raise and would you if its P45 time should you do it.
Heck. Love this venue but looks like I wont be going again.

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