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Medway Council Dispute Looms

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Dispute Moves A Step Closer In Medway Council Over Tory Plans To Dismiss And Re-Engage 3,500 Staff At Full Council Meeting On 20th Feb 

Medway Council staff are braced for a fifth year of pay freeze to see their pay cut by 18% in real terms whilst seeing all other Kent council staff getting pay increases says GMB.

The dispute between Medway council and staff will move a step closer when the ruling Tory Group on the council meet at a full council meeting tomorrow (20th Feb) to set their budget for 2014. See notes to editors for recent GMB press release.

This follows the meeting of the Employment Matters Committee last evening (18th Feb) when Tory councillors voted to dismiss and re-engage 3,500 staff so as to introduce a new performance related pay scheme and extend a pay freeze into fifth year.

Frank Macklin, GMB Regional Officer, said “We are a step closer to a dispute with Medway council and we are currently exhausting internal procedures to see if we can resolve this issue.

In all the years I have been representing members in the public sector, I have never seen such rude and arrogant behavior by a set of Conservative councillors in Medway.

Medway’s ruling Conservative group of councillors resorted to what can only be described as bullying tactics to get their own way, as they are now making plans to dismiss and re-engage their staff on a new performance related pay scheme, even though they have no idea what that scheme will look like.

At last night’s Employment Matters meeting, councillors were supposed to debate the issues of performance related pay and the trade unions’ pay claim.

The Labour Group were trying to raise their concerns about the new performance related pay scheme to their colleagues on the Conservative side of the table, but, instead of listening to the Labour Group and actively debating the issues, the Conservative councillors chatted amongst themselves while Labour councillor, Paul Goodwin, was trying to address them. 

When the Labour Group expressed their disgust in the Conservative councillors’ behaviour, the Conservative councillors offered up a non-meaningful apology.  This arrogant and rude behaviour was witnessed by members of staff and public who were sitting in a packed public gallery.

Despite all the Labour Group and the trade unions’ serious concerns being raised, the Conservative councillors could not put their hands up quick enough when the time came to vote on sacking 3,500 employees. These Tories really dislike and resent working people.

Every meeting GMB has had with Medway Council, over the last four years, we have been threatened with dismissal and re-engagement whenever we have failed to reach a collective agreement, but despite this cruel tactic being used by Medway Council, we have always managed to find a way forward.

However, on this occasion we simply cannot agree on a scheme that has no shape or real format.  Medway Council have basically given us four boxes with Option One written on the first box, Option Two written on the second box, Option Three written on the third box and Option Four written on the fourth box, but when we lift the lid on each of those boxes, we see that the boxes are empty.  We have asked how the scheme is going to work and for more information, but the Council have simply said we can work those issues out as we go along.  Medway Council has also confirmed that it will be a challenge to train 350 Managers to carry out the essential appraisals that will be needed to grade every Medway employee in order for the new performance related pay scheme to work.  It would appear this scheme is doomed before it has even got off the ground due to Medway Council’s rush to push through something before they have set their budget.

The Council also appears to have slammed the door in the faces of the Trade Unions and its employees regarding this year’s pay claim saying they simply do not have any money in the pot to discuss an increase for their staff, but at the same time, they are planning to put over £8m into their reserves this year.

They will not even release £167,000 to implement a living wage for their lowest paid staff.  A 1% rise for their staff would cost around £1.2m, leaving around £7m to go into the reserves.

The dedicated staff, employed by Medway Council, are now bracing themselves for a fifth year without an increase in their basic wage whilst seeing all other Councils in Kent giving their staff pay increases over the same period.  In real terms Medway Council employees have had an 18% pay cut.”

End

Contact: Frank Macklin, GMB 07983 326743.  GMB Press Office 07921 289 880 or 07974 251 823.

Notes to editors:

Copy of recent GMB press release on the subject:

Thursday 13th February 2014

Dispute Looms In Medway Council Over Tory Plans To Dismiss And Re-Engage Staff So As To Impose Performance Related Pay Scheme In 2015

Medway Council has already said that they do not intend to pay any increase this year after four year pay freeze claiming to have no money says GMB

GMB and Unison the unions for staff at Medway Council, responded to proposals by Conservative controlled council to dismiss and re-engage all of their staff at a considerable cost because they want to impose a performance related pay scheme.

Frank Macklin, GMB Regional Officer, said “The public will see their council tax increased in the latest draft budget, with the Conservative controlled local authority claiming it is needed to save essential services.

Nearly £6.5 million is being wasted again on needless projects that residents of Medway do not want or need. The council plans to spend £4.5 million on a concrete runway at Rochester Airport and a further £2 million moving a perfectly good library in Strood.

The Conservative controlled local authority have already proved themselves unable to balance a budget when they went millions of tax payers pounds over budget when closing the old bus station and moving it to the new site in Chatham.

At the same time, the Conservative controlled council has voted to dismiss and re-engage all of their staff at a considerable cost because they want to impose a performance related pay scheme.

Conservative councilor’s voted to sack their staff despite having no idea what the new scheme will look like or how much it will actually cost to implement.

The joint trade unions are disgusted with this latest blow to Medway’s dedicated staff who have not had a pay rise in four years and have taken a pay cut of up to 18% in real terms. The new pay scheme is not due to start until 2015 and Medway Council have already said that they do not intend to pay any increase again this year as they have no money.

This comes at a time when all other local authorities have given pay increases to their staff and even central government announcing that local authority staff should see an increase after a longer than expected pay freeze in the public sector

The joint trade unions feel local authority management and councilors have let themselves and their employee’s down. This is because they have not consulted meaningfully with their staff and they have failed to provide the trade unions with essential information we needed to consult with our members. These vital documents were not given to the trade unions until 50 minutes after the consultation with staff finished.

We are now in dispute with Medway council and we are currently exhausting internal procedures to see if we can resolve this issue.”

End

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