Local government employers cancel wage negotiations for 1.5m staff! 1,700 Environment Agency redundancies put on hold

Unite council workers marching against wage freeze & public sector cuts
Unite council workers marching against wage freeze & public sector cuts

THE GMB  has   reacted furiously to the local government employer’s announcement that they have unilaterally cancelled pay negotiations for 1.5 million staff working in councils and schools which were scheduled to take place last Friday.
Unions representing local government workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland want a minimum increase of £1 an hour to increase the bottom rate of pay in local government to raise it to a living wage hourly rate.
The unions are also want a £1 an hour increase to also apply to all pay points above the bottom rate.
Brian Strutton, GMB national secretary for public services, said: ‘I have been told that the local government employer representatives have a 1% remit to offer a pay rise from 1st April but that they are
holding this back.
‘The reason given is that they first want to see how much the national minimum wage is going up by in October 2014 so that they can deduct this from the 1% pot.
‘This shows complete disdain for employees in three ways; firstly, assuming 1% is going to be sufficient, secondly, assuming it is acceptable to reduce that 1% pot to pay the employers’ obligation to meet the national minimum wage, thirdly denying any opportunity for discussion or negotiation.
‘Council workers have suffered a three-year pay freeze, 440,000 job losses, cuts to terms and conditions, being vilified by politicians, while out there on the front line helping their communities including the victims of this terrible flooding.
‘Street cleaners, school dinner staff, social workers, gravediggers,classroom assistants and all the other unsung heroes serving their local communities deserve a decent pay rise.
‘GMB and the other unions are entering
into a dispute with the local government employers and we will be holding a national trade union meeting shortly to determine our next steps.
‘A measly 1%, reduced even further to pay the national minimum wage, will infuriate our members.’
Unite have also condemnhed the decision
Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: ‘Council workers have suffered years of real pay cuts, while being hit with the escalating cost of living crisis.
‘They are some of the lowest paid workers in England and Wales, and desperately need the £1 an hour pay rise that the unions are asking for to lift them out of poverty wages.
‘We know that the Treasury has given the green light for a one per cent increase, which is derisory – and now the employers are playing politics saying they are going to wait to see what increase there may be in the National Minimum Wage.
‘This is a spurious link and is a disgraceful ploy, it beggars belief.

‘We call on the employers to immediately re-enter negotiations with the staff side unions so that those that keep public services running efficiently on a daily basis receive a decent and fair pay increase.’
l     The GMB union has also responded to a letter written  by Environment Agency (EA) Chief Executive, Paul Leinster to all staff that they are putting ‘on hold’ formal consultations on 1,700 redundancies.
Justin Bowden, GMB National Officer for members at the EA, said: ‘While EA has put consultation on redundancies on hold this statement makes clear that they will press on with redundancies after the floods have receded.
‘At the root of the current flooding crisis are successive years of central government cuts that have trimmed maintenance budgets to unsustainable levels.’
Facts are stubborn things. In 2009-10 total grants to the Environment Agency were £846.7m.
For 2010-11 there were cut
to £799.6m, for 2011-12 they were cut to £749.5m, in 2012-13 there were further cuts to £723m.
There was a further cut of £14m for this year.
This is a reduction of 16% and during this period inflation has increased by 11%.
In real terms the grant has been cut by more than a quarter.
That is before the latest 10% hack at the budget for 2014-15 announced by Osborne last summer.
‘Government must immediately reverse the ludicrous cut of 1,700 EA jobs, followed by an independent inquiry into what are the realistic funding levels necessary to ensure the EA has both the capital budget to protect the country from flooding and drought and a big enough revenue budget to maintain, service and run these vital defences.
‘When the floods recede, so too should the demand for compulsory water meters based on the mistaken conclusion that water in the UK is scarce.
‘It is not. Less than 2% of rain that falls in the UK is used in
households and industry while the rest runs off eventually to the sea. Blaming citizens rather than water companies at times of shortages is a cop out.
‘What needs to be done to avoid running out of water is to store more water from times of plenty to be used at times of scarcity and transfer it from places with surplus water to areas with shortage at times of drought.’
The message from EA Chief Executive Paul Leinster to all Environment Agency staff was as follows.
‘Dear Colleagues,
 I’m writing to update you on how we plan to manage organisational change and the Strategic Reviews Response Programme (SRRP) alongside our response to the extensive flooding.
‘We have just experienced the country’s wettest January since 1766.
‘With more rain forecast, we anticipate further flooding along the Thames, which could reach its highest levels in some places since 1947. This incident has presented huge challenges and the effort
made by Environment Agency staff to warn about and reduce the risks of flooding has been incredible.
‘We are quite rightly prioritising incident response above all other work.
‘With this in mind, we are reviewing the timetable for the change programme.
‘We will not be seeking any further engagement with staff on ways of working during this period and will not be entering into any formal consultation arrangements.
‘We will continue to work closely with the Trade Unions and are committed to their on-going involvement.
‘We will complete the process of appointing Executive Managers, to ensure we have the leadership in place to move forward as soon as the incident permits.
‘We will also keep the Voluntary Early Release Scheme (VERS) open and will manage vacancies carefully, as we move towards our affordable numbers of staff.
‘On April 1st we will move to transitional arrangements for teams currently based in regions.

‘This will mean all teams currently based in regions will temporarily report to the Executive Manager responsible for their work stream.
‘We will provide more detail about this in the coming weeks.
‘Once we move out of incident response mode, we will re-focus our efforts to continue implementing a successful change programme.
‘We want everyone’s voices to be heard as we develop ways of working, free from the pressures of incident response.
‘Directors and I have been out to affected parts of the country and met with teams working night and day to reduce the risk of flooding.
‘The commitment, energy, expertise and professionalism we have seen first-hand makes us incredibly proud to lead this organisation.
‘We are committed to managing engagement and consultation around organisational change in a manner that makes the best use of your knowledge and encourages you to have your say.
‘Thank you for all you are
doing for people and the environment.
‘Please continue to work safely and support one another at this challenging time.
Paul Leinster’.