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Mar 17th, 2014 - Landmark Voluntary Agreement with Unions is a Success

It is just over a year since a landmark voluntary joint recognition agreement was reached between Four Seasons Health Care, the UK's largest independent health and social care provider, and three influential unions: the GMB, the Royal College of Nursing and UNISON. This was the first agreement of its kind in the care sector and it remains the only one. The company's management team and the unions' leadership are united in agreement that this innovative industrial relations initiative has been a success.

Under the agreement Four Seasons and its specialist care division, The Huntercombe Group, recognise the joint unions for negotiation and consultation on a unit by unit basis across more than 500 care homes, hospitals and specialist care centres that employ more than 30,000 staff caring for more than 20,000 residents. This joint representation reflects the fact that those members of the company's staff who have chosen to join a union have mainly turned to one or another of the three unions.

Ian Smith, Chairman and interim Group CEO of Four Seasons, said: "Naturally we had some initial reservations before we made the commitment to what was in effect an experiment in industrial relations, because there was no precedent in the independent care sector. But signing was the culmination of several months of constructive dialogue with the unions during which they demonstrated understanding of the issues and challenges facing independent care operators and we identified that we have shared objectives and concerns.

"The unions appreciate that as our society adapts to the challenge of an ageing population, the independent sector has an increasingly important role in health and social care provision, complementary to that of the NHS and local authorities. For an independent care provider to be successful we have to maintain high standards of care for the people living in our homes and patients in our specialist units and the best way to do that is with a stable, well trained and motivated workforce and good co-operative employee relations. We have jointly developed consultation and bargaining machinery and a governance process that accommodates the multiple representation.

"We have mutual concerns about the future of care services including a sector-wide shortage of experienced qualified nurses; how to make the care sector more attractive to good quality candidates and the constraints on public sector finances for funding of care. Over the past year we have been in close discussion with the unions about working together on these issues and consulting with them on enhanced training for care staff and a development strategy for nurses. We will soon be piloting a nursing leadership programme. From my perspective the relationship has been extremely constructive and positive."

Reaching one joint recognition agreement with three unions might seem complex and challenging but according to Mike Falvey, Corporate Services Director for Four Seasons, this was not the case. He said:"The unions were pragmatic and adaptable, for example in terms of coming to agreement with the company on which union would be the lead for negotiation and consultation on a unit by unit basis. Setting up and implementing the agreement did not prove to be at all difficult."

Four Seasons is owned by Terra Firma, one of the leading private equity firms in Europe, which was fully supportive and encouraged the engagement.

Guy Hands,Chairman and Chief Investment Officer of Terra Firma, said: "The agreement we reached with the unions a year ago shows how the creative solutions we implement at our portfolio business can help to drive operational enhancement. We are focused on building Four Seasons' position as a leader in its industry and we have put quality of care at the top of our agenda. This means taking action to reduce staff churn and agency dependency, which is too often a feature of this sector. Four Seasons' agreement with the unions has already helped improve retention rates, allowing the company to invest in the skill levels of its workforce and we expect this to continue, to the benefit of residents, staff and the business."

Justin Bowden, GMB National Officer, said: "This agreement was ground-breaking in the care sector. One year on it is working well from both the company and Unions' perspective. Having set the bench mark for the rest of the industry, it has encouraged other operators to follow Four Seasons' lead. The Unions and the company are aligned in our thinking on many of the big issues facing the sector, in particular the need to secure a fair level of funding from government so the elderly and vulnerable can receive the high quality of care they deserve, provided by a fairly rewarded workforce. The economic squeeze has led to a reduction in real terms in the fees that local authorities pay for care home places. This cannot continue and if the sector is to attract and retain high quality staff then the care provider companies must be able to reward the workforce fairly for the vital jobs that they do and be properly funded by government to do so."

Dr. Peter Carter, Chief Executive & General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: "This was a landmark agreement and we look forward to continuing to work with Four Seasons to provide advice and support to our members in the workplace for many years to come. A partnership between employers and trade unions contributes to a better working environment and benefits everyone with better pay, terms and conditions and improved care and treatment for clients. By working together we have an opportunity to have a stronger voice on professional issues".

Dave Johnson,Senior National Officer at UNISON, said: "What is significant from my perspective is not the absence of dispute. It is the extent of agreement between the unions and the company on the substantive issues; our shared concerns about the sector issues and the scope for us to work together towards mutual objectives."

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16 Dec 2017

The team at Laurels Lodge Care Home in Woodside pulled out all the stops last week as they took part in Laurels Lodge has got talent.

It was an afternoon full of fun and laughter and the team were up for the challenge and showcased their talents amazingly.

Children from Donbank Nursery also joined the residents that day and they got involved and joined in dancing to the birdie song with the Marlene Smith, Personal Activities Leader. Relatives who came also joined in the dance and had a fun afternoon.

May Duncan said “this is great”! as she danced the birdie song.

Other relatives such as Lorna Graham and Irene Sivewright commented on how good the show was.

The headline acts included:

  • Linda Mason (Deputy Manager) and Lynn Smith (Home Administrator) - ABBA
  • Morag Leslie (SNCA) & Jenny Watt (Care Assistant) – as Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers
  • Rhodora Antiojo (Staff Nurse), Felix Mahinay (Care Assistant), Ewa Misztal (Care Assistant) & Arlene McGillivray (Care Assistant) as the Village People danced the YMCA music
  • Nomeda Jackstienne (Cook) as Madonna
  • Jolanta Nieckarz as Lady Gaga
  • Marlene Smith (PAL) dressed up as Chicken
  • Sheila Gesma (Home Manager) as the DJ

Marlene Smith, Personal Activities Leader, said: “The whole show was fabulous! The teachers from Donbank Nursery said to me that what we did was fantastic and they were very happy that the kids thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon. Sheila our manager was our DJ. It was also great to see relatives participating; it was indeed an afternoon full of fun and entertainment!”

Are you looking for a care home in Woodside? Laurels Lodge Care Home offers support for dementia care, nursing care and respite care.


16 Dec 2017

The Rookery Care Home has been fundraising to get some new activity equipment to provide special experiences for those in their care.

Susan Dyke, a member of the team made a big sacrifice and as a result raised over £400 for the cause.

Gail Llewelyn, Home Manager, said: “Sue decided she’s cut her hair off for the cause. She used to have hair that would rival Rapunzel and had never been to a hairdresser, so to have it cut off into a pixie style was a big deal for her. On behalf of everyone at The Rookery I want to say thank you!”

Are you looking for a care home in Ebbw Vale? The Rookery Care Home offers support for dementia care.


15 Dec 2017

The team at The Sycamore and Poplars Care Home in Mansfield celebrated a huge 120 years’ worth of experience last week, as 5 team members received long service awards.

Karen Gilbert, Home Manager presented the7 team members with their Long Service Certificates and gifts as a thank you for their continued dedication and hard work.

Karen said: “It was a pleasure presenting the team with their awards. I want to say massive congratulations to them all for their continued dedication and hard work. They’re all thought of very highly here in the Sycamore and Poplars by the rest of the team, the residents and their relatives.”

Are you looking for a care home in Mansfield? The Sycamore and Poplars Care Home offers support for all types of care including residential care, dementia care, nursing care, respite care and end of life/palliative care.


14 Dec 2017

Residents at Riverside View Care Home in Darlington welcomed Age Concern into the home last week to celebrate everything armed forces related and the service given by veterans.

Claire Westmorland, Home Manager, said: “We have a number of residents in our home who served in the war, and it was nice for them to share their stories, but also a little emotional as many touched on the friends who never made it home. Representatives from Age Concern also shared their service experience, displaying their medals and other momentous from their time in service. I want to thank everyone who has given their service to protect Queen and Country. We’re all very proud of you.”

Are you looking for a care home in Darlington? Riverside View Care Home provides support for residential care, dementia care, respite care, end of life/palliative care and intermediate care.

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