Thursday 8 September 2011

New Pay Proposals - resistance growing...

This week's Carmarthen Journal  reports on the proposed changes to pay and conditions for Carmarthenshire Council staff. The Council naturally, gives a certain amount of spin on it all, emphasising that some pay will increase, equal pay claims are almost settled, there will be no impact on Council Tax and the unions are entirely happy with the new arrangements. This doesn't appear to be the reality of the situation with many thousands of staff facing pay cuts, and some workers expressed their disquiet. They didn't want to be named either which is worrying in itself (council employees are prohibited from talking to the press without a 'chaperone' from the press office). The Chief Executive claims that some senior officers pay will also drop, but Mr James' own salary was increased by over £26,000 a couple of years ago, conveniently before a 'two-year freeze' was announced. I am sure both he and other very well paid senior officers affected will cope. Incidentally, Mr James' travel/business expenses have risen from £4,157 in 2009, to £4801 in 2010 to a generous £6,238 for 2011, so it's swings and roundabouts for some.

As the negotiations with the unions have stalled the council is now contacting individual staff members by letter. Controversially all are being offered an ex-gratia payment to accept a compromise agreement by which they would lose their normal employment rights and be unable to legally challenge the change in pay and conditions, retrospectively and prospectively.
 The Unions believe this is one of the worst deals in Wales. It also appears that the ruling coalition have accepted the new proposals without adequate consultation with full council. The unions are concerned, as are opposition councillors from Plaid and People First, that the threat of dismissal with re-employment dependent on acceptance of the new terms may force staff to accept the changes.

Cllr Sian Caiach and Cllr Marie Binney have proposed a motion to re-open negotiations with staff and unions, the trouble is that in the last two meetings (June and July), of full council, as I have mentioned, opposition motions have been refused by the independent chair, Cllr Ivor Jackson and referred back to the Executive Board (Labour/Independent) where they have been dismissed without debate. So it remains to be seen how this one will fare;

"Carmarthenshire County Councillors are the employers of all council staff and responsible for their terms and conditions of employment. We have no wish to unfairly disadvantage our staff or ask them to give up their employment rights.
The job evaluation scheme and single status proposal has resulted in many of our staff being offered significant cuts in their pay and expenses. Our staff have also been asked to sign a compromise agreement in return for an ex gratia payment. The compromise agreement, when signed, gives away the worker’s employment and equal pay rights and prevents them making legal claims against us both prospectively and retrospectively.
It is now clear that economic recovery will be, at best, slow and lengthy. At worst, we may have recession and future austerity packages imposed upon us as public employers. Our pension payments will also rise significantly.
Our negotiations with our staff Trades Unions have not been easy and have now stalled. As a result we are asking our staff to make independent decisions by offering them single status agreements and extra money to give up employment rights.
This council proposes that the Trades Unions be urgently invited to a meeting including all county councillors to discuss a way forward more equitable to both the councillors, as employers and the unions as representatives of our workers".

The proposer, Cllr Caiach has also said;

"It is time the Carmarthenshire councillors had a proper debate on the future of our staff rather than letting the senior council officers dictate policy for us on behalf of Council Leader Meryl Gravell. The motion drafted by opposition members merely asks that we step back and involve the Trades Unions and listen to our workers. There could be many waves of austerity measures in years to come and cutting deep at this time and asking our staff to give up employment rights should be an open and reasoned decision involving all councillors, most of whom have only been made aware of the consequences when their constituents, many of whom work for the council, have raised the issues with them. We are all jointly employers of our staff and I hope that a full consultation of my elected colleagues with input from the staff representatives will lead to much fairer settlement."

1 comment:

Photon said...

Well, it's probably a moment for some staff to examine what case under the Equality Act 2010 they may have for being paid below the 'equal pay for work of equal value' assessment.

Equal pay claims "almost settled"? Don't make me laugh.