Council chief accused of ‘flouncing out’ of staff contract talks

Richard Harbord
Richard Harbord

A union spokesman claims Boston Borough Council’s chief executive ‘flounced out’ of talks over plans to cut staff’s terms and conditions.

Boston Borough Council is planning to trim more than £200,000 off its wage bill by reviewing the contracts of its staff.

The unions have rejected the deal put forward – which is said to involve cutting sick pay and overtime and a review of pay scales.

Boston Borough Council insists the cost-cutting move is needed to avoid ‘abitrary’ job losses and at Wednesday’s cabinet meeting Coun Peter Bedford said that the unions have said they ‘will not negotiate’.

GMB regional organiser David Shamma told The Standard he is willing to get around the table – but cannot agree to the planned cuts to what he says are nationally agreed standards.

He said the last meeting with the council’s £675-a-day chief executive Richard Harbord ended badly.

Mr Shamma said: “We suggested the chief executive might want to take a pay cut. He got up and stormed out and called us dinosaurs.”

He added: “I would say he flounced off in a huff. He certainly brought the meeting to an abrupt end.”

Mr Shamma feels the council’s position has left the unions with no choice, adding: “It’s simply ‘we are going to cut the terms and conditions – how are you going to take that?’.

“That’s barrel-of-a-gun negotiation.”

Mr Shamma says the borough council’s attitude is different to others in the area – with North Kesteven District Council proposing to pay its workers the ‘living wage’.

He said: “Quite frankly, I think Boston Borough Council is a law unto itself.

“I believe that they show a Victorian attitude to the workforce.”

Coun Bedford told the cabinet: “None of us would want to make changes to terms and conditions unless absolutely necessary.”

He said the authority relied on its ‘willing and dedicated’ staff to provide services and said no member of staff will be asked to take a pay cut.

Staff had agreed to a three-year deal in 2010 to freeze pay and cut conditions including sick pay – and had hoped to claw some of that back.

Coun Bedford added: “The proposed terms and conditions still represent a competitive package in the local labour market.”

However Mr Shamma dismissed this – saying that the borough council’s new deal would be the worst of any council in the area if it goes through.

He said if the council persists members will be asked what they want to do – and could not rule out a s

The details of the negotiations are not allowed to be made public under the Local Government Act, with councillors going into closed session at Wednesday’s meeting.

The council says staff costs amount to 80 per cent of its £9.5 million budget.

Mr Harbord declined to comment on Mr Shamma’s views.