Dear UNISON Member,
Happy new year to you. The lead article in the latest Loud and Clear Magazine was “2017 – not a year to remember fondly” and unfortunately the doom and gloom is set to continue and worsen in 2018.
You will recall that November’s Cabinet meeting agreed a proposal to cut at least £5m from LCC staff terms and conditions. It was stated at Cabinet that there was to be meaningful discussion with the Trade Unions, that there were no specific proposals on the table and that dismissal and re-engagement would be a last resort if agreement could not be reached with the trade unions. It was also stated that it was inevitable the Council would have to look at cutting terms and conditions.
In December the Trade Unions were served with a S188 notice which is a formal notice that commences the consultation on terms and conditions. The intention is that any changes would take effect from 1 July 2018 and the clock is now ticking, however no proposals have been put forward by management on which to consult. There have been some illustrations presented of what savings could be achieved if some changes are made.
A S188 notice is a legal requirement if the Council intend to dismiss and re-engage staff. For avoidance of any doubt the S188 notice means that the Council will dismiss and re-engage staff unless the Unions agree to changes to terms and conditions – this is hardly a meaningful process as detrimental changes will be forced on staff unless the unions agree. The letter to dismiss and re-engage you is already drafted and ready.
UNISON has long warned that there would be cuts to staff terms and conditions and raised the issue among members during the local elections in 2017. The previous administration entered into a “Memorandum of Understanding” with the unions that they would not cut terms and conditions – so there is no inevitability about cutting terms and conditions. The Council clearly faces unprecedented financial challenges however the current administration in UNISON’s opinion still continue to deny that a decade of austerity and cuts to Local Government is to blame. Lancashire is unfairly funded and that is the issue that needs addressing. Staff have already taken their share of pain through the last few years of real terms pay cuts of around 20% and having to do more with less to keep services running.
Furthermore and quite alarmingly, the Council is spending over £15m on Agency staff. UNISON has proposed to the Council that the agency spend is urgently reviewed before any proposals are made to cut staff terms and conditions – £5m savings could be found by getting agency spend under control. In addition there has been no explanation as to where the figure of £5m has come from either from officers or politicians – surely someone must know? Even if £5m is cut from terms and conditions there is still over another £150m to save in the next 4 years – it is not as if the £5m is the final piece of the puzzle to balance the books!
UNISON will obviously consult with members widely once more detailed information is available and it is the intention to hold meetings across the County. Please be assured that UNISON will not agree to any proposals without consulting the membership.
Please keep an eye out for the meeting arrangements.