Published: Tuesday, 12 March 2019 08:34
A vital local public health service faces being torn apart by selfish, short-sighted budget decisions.
Cuts hidden away in the budgets of a number of local councils has left a vital public health service fighting for its life.
Tayside Scientific Services had been a shared service between Dundee City, Angus and Perth & Kinross Councils. It provides chemical and biological testing and analysis to public and private bodies across the region. Fife was also a major customer.
Other councils had recently withdrawn from partnership to become customers only, leaving DCC carrying responsibility for the staff and, building and equipment.
This year’s budget rounds has seen contributions to that service shredded.
Dundee City only offered a flat cash budget going forward, despite clear cost pressures making that a real terms cut of more than 5%.
Fife council has cut its contribution from £126k to just £100k,
Angus has cut from £256k to just £100k and Perth and Kinross has completely cut its previous £190k contribution.
Overall this sees funding for the service cut by £372k to just £526k per year starting next month before any cost pressures are applied.
With unavoidable commitments to building and plant costs, this over 40% cut will have a devastating impact on the staffing of the service and could jeopardise its very existence.
Dundee City Council has been left trying to salvage something from the ruins of these selfish political decisions.
It appears no task force has as yet been set up to rescue this service or the jobs of those who provide it. The staff concerned will face the tender mercies of Dundee City’s new “Managing Workforce Change” policy (see coverage of that elsewhere).
Despite the genuine sympathy of the senior manager sent to inform the staff yesterday, who has promised to look at TUPE protection etc, DCC's lack of commitment to avoiding redundancies was demonstrated by the fact no-one was there from HR to explain what plans they had to maintain their employment.
This is only to be expected from an employer that is cutting pay protection while claiming it will do its best to look at redeployment to avoid actual loss, having shown itself completely incapable of doing so in the past over longer periods of protection.
Unison will continue to fight for the best outcome for its members caught in the middle of this mess.
The politicians across the local councils should hang their heads in shame for their selfish short sighted decisions that have threatened the continuation of what is a vital public service.
Other employees of local councils should take note. We cannot simply wait to see where the axe will fall next.
Published: Thursday, 14 February 2019 10:51
Members will have received an "Allstaff" email from management on Tuesday (12th Feb) which talks in very mild and positive terms about an attached report that it claims "builds on a CoSLA agreement with the local government trade unions in April 2016".
Clearly we live in Orwell's 1984, where language takes on a whole new meaning.
It is utterly disingenuous to say the above, implying that this is part of on-going progressive discussions with the trade unions.
We have made quite clear, in the brief period this document has been made available to us that we are utterly opposed to its key objectives, which are to rapidly move to massive restructure of council jobs and services to move large numbers of employees onto poorer pay and conditions or out the door.
Dundee City Unison's brief discussions with management on this proposal point to it being nothing more than a management toolkit for rapidly cutting pay and jobs.
The report has 3 main changes that should ring alarm bells with all staff:
1. It clearly states what the Chief Exec has inferred on a number of occasions previously, that they believe Dundee City does not have a "No Compulsory Redundancy" policy but rather a policy to "try to avoid Compulsory Redundancy" (well who doesn't ??):
The obvious implication being that they expect to soon be moving to make compulsory redundancies. In fact, this has been stated by the Chief Exec at recent meetings (with council leaders present).
2. The reduction of the pay protection from 3 years to 6 months:
This has nothing to do with the cost of the tiny number of people currently on pay protection (which used to be permanent until implementation of the Single Status Equal Pay arrangements suggested only 3 years could be justified under Equal Pay concerns).
This is clearly a signal that they plan massive restructuring of council services to move large numbers of people into lower pay and to make the savings (which are it's only justification) much more quickly. You can guarantee that, as usual, senior managers will not be significantly affected by these restructures.
Bizarrely, they see no irony in the fact they are proudly promising teachers, who are sadly to have their pay cut as part of the budget cuts, 3 years cash conservation.
3. Forcing those who seek Flexible Retirement (where you perhaps reduce hours or pay and take your (much reduced) pension early for the reduced hours/pay) to agree to go after a maximum of 2 years:
This is a cruel abuse that twists the purpose of flexible retirement - meant to allow people who want (or usually need) to reduce the strain of work as they get older - into another tool to get people out the door quickly.
Council workers have put up with a lot over the last decade or more. Seeing hundreds of colleagues disappear, while those left to carry the resulting growing workload see their pay shrink in real terms and a drip, drip of cuts to terms and conditions. Feeling the shame of not being able to deliver services to the same level that we have in the past.
We have seen our pay outstripped by inflation to the point where we have effectively worked for free for a whole year or more. Our current pay offer only sees us barely keep track with current and projected cost of living rises - leaving the pay gap and historical loss still growing in real terms.
This report, being snuck though just days before one of the most devastating budget proposals ever seen in Dundee, will give management free reign to rip apart our members' lives and livelihoods.
We will not stand for it and we encourage members to fight against it and have told management and council leaders as much. We will be consulting with members on taking action, including strike action if necessary, to oppose it in coming days and weeks.
We urge members to:
turn out on the Dundee Against Cuts march on Saturday (16th) (Assemble 11:30 - Unite the Union Offices, Blackness Road - marching to City Centre).
protest the Council meeting on Monday 18th, where this report is to be tabled 5:30pm for 6pm meeting.
protest the Council budget setting meeting on Thursday 21st
engage with activities and consultation over this issue
come to one of the upcoming AGM meetings on 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th March
prepare to take whatever action is needed and stand together to stop or reverse these proposals