Leaked proposals to change terms and conditions of council staff spark concern

Northumberland County CouncilNorthumberland County Council
Northumberland County Council
Labour councillors have slammed proposals to ‘take money from the pay packets of the county council’s workforce’, which have been revealed in leaked papers.

The proposals in question are contained in a report to the authority’s informal cabinet, dated November 6, 2018, which has been seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service following the start of discussions with the trade unions earlier this month.

Under the heading, Proposed changes to staff terms and conditions, it outlines a range of proposals, which it says could be implemented as part of a new agreement from April 1 this year.

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It includes suggested changes such as flat time instead of time-and-a-half for hours worked over the standard 37 per week and time-and-a-half in place of double time for certain public holidays, as well as proposed adjustments to allowances and expenses – some of which would be increased while others would be stopped.

However, the council has said that these were simply a starting point for discussion with the unions, adding that it is ‘disappointing’ that the initial meeting being in confidence ‘wasn’t respected by all those who attended’.

Labour leader, Coun Grant Davey, claimed he and his colleagues were ‘shocked’ when they saw the report from the ‘secret’ meeting, which the unions ‘of course are up in arms about’.

“The report wishes to smash the national single-status agreement and remove the council and its employees from the national pay bargaining arena, removing what Labour believes at first glance to be £3.2million per annum from the pay packets of the county council’s workforce through stopping all premium-rate payments for overtime and slashing the expenses workers receive,” he said.

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The Labour Group’s chairman, Coun Scott Dickinson, added: “Members of the Labour Group are incensed as we know that it’s the pay packets of local government workers and health trusts which safeguard the winter high-street economies across the county of Northumberland and, when coupled with the attacks on the poor and disabled in the Tory budget, over £5million will be removed annually from the local economies of this county. How will our high streets look then?”

But a council spokesman said: “Northumberland County Council has had an initial discussion with trade-union colleagues about updating and refreshing its single-status agreement, which was agreed in 2009 and implemented in 2011, to reflect modern-day working practices and remove some allowances which are now obsolete.

“This is a local agreement between the council and its recognised trades unions which represent the workforce and provides a harmonised set of terms and conditions (including pay and grading arrangements).

“The initial discussion which took place with trade-union colleagues last week was in confidence and it’s disappointing this wasn’t respected by all those who attended.

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“It was aimed at setting out an initial proposal to discuss matters further and it is expected that ongoing discussions will take place over the coming weeks and months. Trade-union colleagues are aware that the initial draft of proposals was a starting point for discussions and nothing more than that.

“The date of implementation for any such changes to the council’s single-status agreement has not been agreed and this will be considered in due course with trade-union colleagues.

“The county council will communicate with staff about any proposed changes as part of its regular briefings.”

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service