Bridgend CBC and unions on collision course after shocking job pay change proposals

Labour controlled Bridgend County Borough Council has become embroiled in bitter disputes with several unions after a job evaluation exercise has produced recommendations that would slash the pay of thousands of council employees – including many of the lowest paid.The strength of feeling among council staff was clear at a recent meeting, when more than 600 members of the Bridgend County branch of Unison met at Bridgend Rugby Football Club to discuss BCBCs proposals and around 200 went to meetings in Maesteg and Porthcawl.
Steve Belcher, the UNISON regional organiser, said in a press release:
This is an attempt to slash wages, terms and conditions under the guise of job evaluation. So many members turned up we eventually had to hold the meeting in the main stadium. It was an unprecedented show of frustration and disbelief. Our membership are incensed that Bridgend County Borough Council has chosen to treat them this way, its an absolute insult.Unison are now likely to conduct an indicative ballot of the membership to determine whether the union can officially ballot for industrial action against the job evaluation scheme.

BCBCs assistant chief executive, David Macgregor, has said:
Bridgend County Borough Council is committed to fairness and equity in the way we pay our staff, and like all councils, we must complete a job evaluation exercise. Under the proposals, 75 per cent of salaries will go up or stay the same. The majority of those who will benefit are our lower paid front-line staff such as care workers.

However it looks as if the majority of those that might see an increase will see only tiny increases that may not even cover inflation in living costs, whereas many of those losing out will see horrendous cuts to their incomes. Examples already identified include:

  • Some teaching assistants currently paid a basic salary of just under £23,000 a year could expect to be paid just over £11,000
  • A manager on about £33,500 a year would go down to just over £26,000
  • Couples who both work for BCBC facing a cut in their joint income of up to £14,000
  • Litter pickers, already on a low wage, had found their pay cut by £2,000
  • A more junior officer’s basic pay would fall from around £25,500 to just under £18,000
  • Some night care workers losing up to £3,000 per annum

GMB, UNISON and UNITE the three unions representing employees at Bridgend County Borough Council (BCBC) issued a joint statement today as follows:

Bridgend County Borough Council is publishing its proposals this week in relation to the Job Evaluation exercise. It is our view that BCBC are treating their own employees with total contempt and are deliberately provoking a dispute in order to force through their Draconian proposals. The unions were shocked to discover last week that BCBC had already prepared a document that was to be made public this week. Without any consultation with the trade unions on the document BCBC are intending to remove almost all terms and conditions relating to overtime, unsocial hours, weekend working etc and replace them with a plain time payment. It cannot be right that night care workers are losing up to £3,000 per annum as a result of BCBCs proposals.

Let me share the the statement that appears on Bridgend Labour Party’s website landing page:

“Thousands have decided that now is the time to join The Labour Party because they have realised that it is only The Labour Party that will create a society which has fairness, equality and meritocracy as core values.”

I will leave you to count the number of inaccuracies in this statement!! If there were to be any sort of ring of truth to this statement, I would expect the Labour administration in BCBC to be at the forefront of sorting this disgrace out. I have seen no sign of it to date. Carwyn Jones is reported to be ‘concerned’ – which is a step up from his response to the fracking issue at least!

Let it be remembered that people like David Macgregor (quoted above) are the paid servants of the council. The role of Chief Executive Officers is well decribed in this document: http://www.psi.org.uk/publications/archivepdfs/New%20dire/ND2.pdf from which this comes:

“For the chief executive to be truly effective, there is a need to develop a spirit of political and managerial partnership and mutual understanding. In County Councils there has been a tendency for chief officers to monopolise the political interface. Where this happens it leads to a lack of political awareness and sensitivity amongst managers, often at a quite senior level. Part of the chief executives role is to develop political sensitivity in the officer structure, perhaps through specific training, but more importantly through political exposure. This means developing confidence with both the members and the chief officers in this process.”

I would suggest that the disgraceful state of affairs we are now subject to here in Bridgend highlights the complete lack of political and managerial partnership at the political interface between the Labour administration and the Council officers. There are clearly a lot of jobs that need re-evaluating at a senior level.

BCBC chief executive Jo Farrars job was advertised at £120,000 in 2006 But Dr Farrar made £170,310 including pension contributions, expenses and benefits in kind in 2009-10, as revealed in last week’s Gazette. It is not known what pay cut is being proposed in her case!

As for the Labour administration’s ‘job evaluation’ – that comes round next May at the ballot box!!

If people are really interested in “a society which has fairness, equality and meritocracy as core values” it must be clear that blind allegiance to the Labour Party, that once served them so well, is never going to achieve it.

This is where they will find it:

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