Unite the Union are very excited about obtaining leaked papers from Southampton City Council on budget plans. I wonder how they got them. Did they get a "private investigator" to rummage through the bins in the spirit of tabloid derring do?
I doubt if once the union's spin has been removed there will be anything much that wasn't included in the budget papers published in February.
Anyway the union says they allow £5 million a year for redundancy payments and include making a quarter of the workforce redundant. However the union claim seems to conflate redundancies with "posts to go". That ignores people who retire and are not replaced.
They also suggest that redundancies vindicates going on strike over new terms and conditions. But the Council never said the these changes would avoid redundancies altogether. They said they would mean fewer redundancies than would otherwise be required.
The Council's position on the strikes is as follows:
"Southampton City Council, in common with all councils, is currently facing an extremely difficult funding challenge.
We must find savings of £65 million over the next four years, which represents more than a quarter of our running costs. We have a funding gap of £25 million in the current year alone.
The council is tackling the massive funding gap in a number of different ways. We have reduced councillors’ allowances. We are ensuring we work more efficiently. We are teaming up with other councils to deliver joint services. We are reducing some services. We are removing up to 250 posts, some already vacant, some through retirements and some through redundancies. We will try to maximise our income from some of the services we charge for.
However, we spend most of our money on our staff and we cannot avoid taking measures that impact directly on those staff. We have proposed a range of changes to pay, terms and conditions that will help achieve the savings needed while maintaining jobs and the services those jobs support.
We are reducing the number of managers in the organisation with one in five manager posts being removed, including two executive directors. Staff earning less than £17,500 will receive a small increase in pay while those earning more will have their pay reduced, with those earning most having the biggest reductions. Mileage allowances and other benefits are also being reduced.
We believe these changes to pay, terms and conditions will allow us to protect 400 jobs within the council. By doing so we protect the services that the public relies on.
We are making these changes, not through choice, but out of necessity. We have a legal obligation to balance the books so we cannot avoid having to make huge savings.
The unions, Unite and Unison, are currently in dispute with us over the changes to staff pay, terms and conditions. Union members have been asked to take strike action and work to rule which is causing disruption to services in the city.
This industrial action is undoubtedly having an impact on residents. We understand that and apologise for the inconvenience caused to you.
Any union action that hits council income and incurs additional cost to the taxpayer is only making this already very difficult situation worse. Less money means even greater pressure on jobs and services. Because of this we believe the union action is counter-productive. We have asked that the unions suspend their action while we seek to resolve the dispute. They have not agreed to do so.
Talks between the council and the unions with Acas (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) have resulted in a ten point proposal of concessions by the council. To find out more about the current situation regarding the talks see our update on the talks with the unions page. This offer is still on the table at present. We want to resolve the current situation as quickly as possible and the council is prepared to compromise. However, this needs to be against the context of a £65 million funding gap. If we delay the implementation of the changes or if we reduce the impact on staff pay, we will have to find the money from somewhere else which means redundancies and cuts to public services are inevitable.
Again, we apologise for any inconvenience you may be experiencing during this period of industrial action. We are unable to let you know when services will resume but we hope we can return our services to normal as soon as possible."