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Ealing and Northfield

Unison baulks at council’s £1.5 million terms and conditions saving

It is interesting to see the Unison union pushing back hard on the council’s ever so modest proposals to shave £1.5 million off staff costs by renegotiating staff terms and conditions, see Ealing & Acton Gazette.

Ealing’s terms and conditions really are very generous. Staff do 35 hour weeks. New starters get 27 days holiday which goes up to 30 days after 5 years and 33 days after ten. The chief officers get 33 days on day one. In the 2009/10 financial year non-school staff alone earned £1.8 million in overtime, anti-social hours and special responsibility allowances. The difference between these Ts and Cs and the kind of Ts and Cs enjoyed by the bulk of the workers paying council tax in Ealing is worth about 10% of the £130 million pay bill, not the 1% the council is going for.

It is true to say that local government workers are in the 3rd year of a pay freeze. This is a real hardship but many in the private sector have endured pay cuts or extended periods of stagnant wages since 2008 and are still working significantly longer hours than Ealing council’s staff.

In spite of the pay freeze and “400 posts” Mary Lancaster of Unison refers to the council pay bill has been creeping up due to upwards regrading of groups of staff during re-organisations. More on this another day.

It is worth noting that school leaders on the Ealing Schools Forum feel so comfortable with their finances that they opted out of this negotiation for their support staff (teachers are on separate national Ts and Cs) so they will continue to enjoy the terms and conditions described above.

Rather strangely the leader of the council, Julian Bell, has taken personal charge of these negotiations himself. This is a terrible decision. He takes on too much himself as his cabinet is so weak. He really could have left the initial negotiations to his senior officers. If he doesn’t achieve this very modest saving he will be in big trouble. Asking staff to give up £1.5 million of the £85 million savings the council is seeking isn’t exactly ambitious.