Council workers face cuts

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THOUSANDS of Doncaster Council workers could see two hours shaved off their working week as bosses try to deal with budget cuts.

The move, which senior officers at the council expect would save around £5 million a year, is among a list of proposals which will be put to staff.

Currently, full time staff at the authority work a 37-hour week, but a change to 35 hours would see their wages fall by 5.4 per cent.

Also under consideration is a reduction of a single hour in the week.

Under the ideas which the council is looking to put on the table, a reduction of one day off the annual holiday entitlement is also proposed.

At present, staff get between 26 and 35 days, depending on rank and length of service. The move is estimated to be worth £100,000 in savings.

A reduction in mileage rates for staff who use their own cars from 50p to 40p per mile is also being put forward.

Sick pay levels are also at risk, with proposals to cut the entitlement from six months’ full pay followed by six months’ half pay to three months’ full pay and three months’ half pay, and to stop paying staff for the first three days of sickness absence.

Implementing both has been estimated as saving £1 million.

The proposals have raised concerns among union officials.

Public sector workers union Unison’s Doncaster convenor Jim Board said: “My immediate reaction to this is this is an attack on employee terms and conditions, and attacking those conditions like this will meet resistance from Unison members.

“I think it is entirely unreasonable. VAT is rising, National Insurance contributions are rising and fuel costs are rising. Reducing pay like this would possibly see staff standards of living falling 15 to 20 per cent in the next 18 months to two years, and that is a huge hit for any workers.

“Attacking public sector workers, who had no hand in the mess we are in economically, is unreasonable and will be roundly rejected.”

He said staff were actively considering industrial action.

The plans have also caused concern among some councillors.

Coun Martin Williams said: “In my opinion our staff are our greatest asset and if their terms and conditions are continually messed about with they will get disillusioned and demoralised.”

Council chief executive Rob Vincent said the authority had to make savings of around £70 million in the next four years so must look at all areas where efficiencies could be achieved.

He added: “As employees are our largest and most costly resource it is only right we review their terms and conditions. No decisions have yet been made and unions have been fully involved in the process.

“We will continue to be open and honest with our employees and from next week we will begin a full consultation with staff asking them for their views on the range of alternatives and options.

“Any cost savings we achieve from this review will help protect services and lessen the number of redundancies we may have to make in the future.”

A spokesman for the Tax Payers Alliance said during the recession many taxpayers working in the private sector took pay cuts, pay freezes, redundancies or reductions in their working hours.

She said: “It’s only fair that Doncaster Council now looks at these measures too.

“Cutting hours and reducing pay in line with that will make a significant saving for the council but they must also look at other savings, such as reducing bureaucracy and cutting wasteful spending.

“Reducing mileage rates is a no-brainer, 50p a mile is over-generous, and if Doncaster Council is serious about making savings it will cut the cost of employees’ car usage by setting the rate in line with HMRC statutory rates.”