Driver makes unexpected U-turn in Lancashire
UNISON welcomes the decision of the Tory Cabinet to keep Lancashire County Council as a Living Wage employer. It was a disgraceful and callous proposal and it should have never been brought to Cabinet in the first place as it was clear that the proposal to cease being a Living Wage employer would hurt the lowest paid staff in the Council, the majority of whom are part time and female. The timing of the proposal was even more shocking given most workers paid the Living Wage were celebrating it being increased this week. Clearly pressure brought by opposition Councillors and the Trade Unions forced the Tory Cabinet and Councillor Driver into this dramatic U-turn and we consider this a victory for those 5,820 workers affected. We look forward to the Council implementing the increase in the Living Wage from £8.45 an hour to £8.75 without any delay for these staff.
Unfortunately the Tory Cabinet did decide to continue with their attack on all LCC staff by agreeing at least £5m worth of cuts to as yet unknown terms and conditions. Despite the Councillor Driver’s assurances of genuine and meaningful discussion the report clearly states that dismissal and re-engagement will be used to force changes onto staff – so much for meaningful consultation when they are saying they will just do it anyway. The report also suggests cuts to terms and conditions “may result in low staff morale and increased staff turn over” – UNISON believes this is an understatement. Local Government staff have already suffered Government imposed austerity through a 21% real terms pay cut since 2009 and yet it is only staff hard work which is keeping services going with ever decreasing resources. UNISON does not think this is fair and we believe that members do not believe it is fair. It is stated that there is no pre-determination as to what terms and conditions may be cut although there has been talk of cuts to sickness benefits and the introduction of compulsory unpaid leave – both take money from LCC staff who can not afford to lose money. Local Government staff are the worst paid in the public sector and have already taken their fair share of pain.
The Council clearly face unprecedented financial challenges and it is clear from the PwC report that even if LCC ran all services at the lowest possible cost that there still would not enough money to close the funding gap. Lancashire is unfairly funded! Yet the Tory Group continue to deny that a decade of failed austerity is to blame – they refuse to acknowledge the impact of Government cuts even when the realities are staring them in the face. Instead they cut staff terms and conditions.
UNISON will be arranging meetings across the County to meet with members and all staff will be welcome to attend and join UNISON. As soon as we learn anymore we will be sharing that with members and UNISON will be doing all it can to defend hard won terms and conditions, but we do need a strong membership to be effective and UNISON encourages non members to join today and existing members to consider becoming more active within the union and become a rep.