Council staff pay slashed by 4 per cent

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UNIONS and Doncaster Council are on a collision course for strike action after controversial plans to slash the pay of council staff by 4 per cent were given the go-ahead.

Reduced overtime payments and less frequent pay rises are also on the cards for the 7,000 workers employed by the local authority.

All three of the main unions - Unison, Unite and GMB - immediately said they would ballot their members and recommend industrial action to oppose the pay cuts.

In an meeting of the council’s employee relations committee yesterday, councillors asked union leaders to make the stark choice between more job cuts or lower salaries.

Those earning more than £15,000 a year will be affected by the proposed pay cuts and chief officers have given an indication they are prepared to accept a greater salary reduction.

Coun Craig Sahman, committee chairman, challenged Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne to visit Doncaster for themselves to come and see the impact of the £80 million worth of cuts the borough will have to suffer as part of the Government’s spending review.

“It is an absolute disgrace these cuts have been allowed to happen, but we are where we are and we need to balance the books,” said the Labour member.

“I don’t feel comfortable with what we are being asked to approve and it does upset me and I want to apologise to the staff, but these issues are out of our control and we are forced to take tough decisions. Our main priority is to protect jobs and services.”

Coun Hilary McNamee angered union officials on the committee when she asked them: “Presumably your members are happy not to have a job?”

If the council implements the proposals after March 31, it will mean a pay cut of 4 per cent, incremental pay awards every two years instead of annually, overtime rates reduced from time-and-a-half to time-and-a-quarter and no extra lieu days for working bank holidays, except Christmas and New Year - but there will be a guaranteed pay increase of 2.5 per cent in April 2013.

The council decided not to pursue changes to sick pay, a cap on car mileage rates and delaying paydays to the end of the month instead of the middle.

Doncaster Council has already shed 1,000 jobs and there will be more to come, but finance director Simon Wiles says the estimated £6.2 million to be saved from the changes to conditions could save between 200 and 250 jobs.

Councillors unanimously approved the proposals and afterwards Coun Sahman said: “As a committee we recognise and share the pain associated with the recommendations.

“However, sadly it is not a choice, but rather a necessity, that the council is being forced to manage such a disgraceful cut to our spending.

“Staffing is the biggest cost to any local authority and it is our elected duty to make sure we balance the budget during what are incredibly tough times.

“While we wish we didn’t have to make such a difficult decision, we regard supporting this proposal as the best way in limiting further impact on staff, jobs and frontline services as much as we can.

“In response to some concern expressed by union representatives over salaries of chief officers, I have requested a separate review is now carried out and a report brought back to the committee to ensure those who are paid the most shoulder the greatest burden.”