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Tue, 10 October 2017

6,000 More Council Jobs To Be Cut

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Birmingham City Council Leader Sir Albert Bore has announced that the council workforce will face a further 6,000 full time job losses over the next three financial years. The Council workforce is projected to be cut from 13,000 full time equivalent posts to around 7,000 posts by 2018. With many people working part time, the actual number of people affected is likely to be several thousands more than the full time figures quoted.

The budget and job cuts do not affect schools which are funded separately.
If these cuts are not stopped, they mean half the current workforce will lose their jobs by 2018, leaving just a third of the workforce we had in 2010.

We say - These cuts will severely damage the city’s economy, ruin the lives of people made redundant and threaten wholesale loss of vital local government services. UNISON members are sick of the relentless attacks on the jobs, pay, conditions at work and the services they provide. We will strongly oppose these cuts.

The Council has already cut around 7,000 full time posts since 2010. This was equivalent in job losses to the closure of the Rover plant at Longbridge in 2005. By 2018 the council will have cut the equivalent of 2 Longbridges from the economy of the city.

The cuts arise from the Austerity drive of the Government. The council estimates that between £150-200 million will be cut from next year’s budget (2015/6) and a further £200 million will go over the next two years (2016/7 and 2017/8).

The Leader’s statement to the council meeting on 16 September says that “The simple fact is that we cannot do all that we have done in the past with two thirds, let alone one third of the staff.  … I want members of this council and the people of Birmingham to reflect on that stark fact and think about what it means for how we operate in the years ahead.  Clearly we cannot continue with anything like the range of activities we have delivered in the past.”

The cuts threaten whole services. The current salami slicing approach is not thought to be able to deliver this scale of cuts.

Timescale & Process

Since February 2014. The council has been conducting fundamental Service Reviews between the councillors and senior managers since February. The unions have not been involved in these reviews and have not been kept briefed of the details of their discussions.

October 2014. A Green Paper will be issued with the outline conclusions of the Service Reviews and their overall plan for change.

December 2014. Detailed budget proposals for 2015/6 issued. Public consultation starts. Although the statement does not directly say this, we would expect at this time a city wide Section 188 Notice would be issued, listing the areas affected and likely job cuts. A formal consultation period with the unions will commence.

February 2015. Full Council meeting to agree budget proposals.

The statement makes no mention of a VR trawl but last year there was an initial VR trawl for some affected areas in the January- March period, and a further VR trawl for affected areas after April. The statement says they believe that the job cuts will require major levels of compulsory redundancy.

Corporate and directorate based formal consultations with the unions and the staff affected are likely to start from December. Some consultation processes may not take place until the new financial year starts.

April 2015. New financial year starts.

Support for the Workforce

The Statement acknowledges that :

“…the transition will not be an easy one.  It will require retraining and significant amounts of energy and drive.
This energy and drive will be vital to the future success of this council, yet the challenge comes at a time when many of our workforce are tired and disillusioned.  They are, if you like, the silent victims of the government cuts.”
“…we must put in place the right support to enable staff to get through these changes and to develop the new skills they will need, whether they stay with us or start new careers elsewhere.”

There will be a full human resource strategy to address these issues.

UNISON made the point that if the council is to have any credibility with its workforce it must :

  • Stop privatising our services
  • Stop the bullying and intimidation of our members in the workplace
  • Improve rather than worsen our grievance, disciplinary, capability and other procedures which are all currently under urgent review.
  • Drop the PDR system and break the links with between performance and pay
  • Make the managing attendance procedure less punitive

Information Campaign

The Statement announces the launch of an information campaign “to ensure that everyone in this city is aware of the stark choices we face in the years ahead.” They say the cuts are a result of the unfair distribution of austerity measures across public services. It has been estimated that over 50% of the cuts have fallen on local government and welfare benefits.

Our view is that Austerity must end, not be pushed elsewhere in public services. The Scottish referendum debate has shown that millions of ordinary people are saying there are alternatives to austerity and that public services and welfare matter. We can and must fight to win more public opposition to these cuts.

We have been invited to take part in joint campaigning with the Labour Group against these cuts. We will be discussing this with our stewards next week. The last Fair Deal For Birmingham campaign run by the council also linked in encouragement to the public to volunteer and take over our services. We don’t agree with that.

We want to see how genuine the Council is about providing the “right support to enable staff to get through these changes”.  We want a better working environment for our members in the council.

We also want to see if a nationwide campaign among the core cities of Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle, Bristol and others can be established to save local government from these cuts.

The Next Steps

  1. Our branch stewards will consider our strategy against the cuts; and the invitation to jointly campaign at a meeting of our branch committee next week.
  2. We will be negotiating with the council what it will do about PDRs, privatisation, procedures and other matters in order to regain the confidence of members and as a pre-condition to our taking part in a joint campaign.
  3. There Joint Unions are considering holding a members meeting on the day of the next pay strike on October 14th to discuss how we respond to these cuts, as well as other threats such as the Adult Care Co-op, Home Care Rotas, down grading and other pressing issues.
  4. The next strike day is about our pay claim, but it is also fundamentally about the cuts and austerity policies of the council and government too. That’s why we have had a 20% cut in our pay in the last few years. So we will be building for the strike day on October 14th
  5. We will be working with anti-cuts groups in the city, including Birmingham Against The Cuts
  6. We will be preparing to work with members affected to take part in the consultation process to protect services, reduce redundancies and safeguard our members’ interests.

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