OBSERVER: Did council staff really have a choice over their contracts?


My regular reader will know that I appear to upset our council leader (unintentionally, of course!) on a regular basis and his letter last week concerning his ‘thank you’ to staff prompts me to ask: Did they really have any choice in accepting the new terms and conditions?

Coun Bedford goes into great detail in praising them ‘for all they have done to safeguard services’. He goes on that they are lucky to have staff ‘with an understanding of the difficult financial position the council is in’ and that it was ‘only after a long period of consideration and with a heavy heart and our backs to the wall’ that staff were asked to consider a change.

Best of all is his comment that “Staff voted with their hearts and their minds and every single one of our 296 employees voluntarily accepted the proposed changes. This selfless action has not passed unnoticed by elected members.” Note that last sentence: do we presume then that when councillors’ allowances are next due for an increase that they will be turned down, out of respect for their employees as We’re All In It Together?

His comments are vastly different to those contained in a letter the previous week from the Labour councillors, who commented: “You won’t be surprised if we tell you that both staff unions, GMB and Unison, consulted with their members and, as you can imagine, their members did not want to formally agree to lose more of their hard earned wages. We now know that they gave the staff no real option to negotiate at all – they’ve been told ‘you either sign up or risk losing your job’. The morale of the staff is at an all time low.”

Let’s face it, at this time of austerity people with jobs are not going to do anything other than do all in their power to keep them. It’s all very well to say the proposals were fully accepted by all employees – but they did not have any real choice.