Council forced to extend voluntary severance scheme as staff fail to leave

Article published: Friday, January 18th 2013

Town hall officials have warned Manchester City Council that applications to its voluntary severance scheme are falling short of the number needed to make savings without considering compulsory redundancies.

Manchester-Town-Hall ed okeefeA report to next week’s meeting of the council’s executive has revealed that only 485 employees have applied to its voluntary redundancy and voluntary early retirement schemes. Around 830 jobs at the town hall are to be scrapped as part of £80 million in cuts over the next two years.

The report stresses “it will not be possible to agree” to every application made under the scheme, and have told the council that “at the time of writing [14 January], the number and location of applications received under the time limited scheme would not translate into the required savings”.

Officials have recommended that the severance schemes be extended to 15 February to “enable all staff to fully consider their options”. But officials warn the scheme “cannot be extended indefinitely given the Council’s need to achieve a balanced budget”.

The report adds, “Where the necessary reductions cannot be achieved through voluntary means, the Council will need to reconsider its position in relation to compulsory redundancies.”

Officials also urge the executive to exempt the report from “call in” for scrutiny by councillors, arguing that “any delay caused by the call-in process, would seriously prejudice the legal or financial position of the Council or the interests of the residents of Manchester”.

Of the 830 threatened jobs, the council aims to lose 417 from adults’ and children’s services, 265 from neighbourhood services and 148 from its corporate core in a bid to cut £25m.

So far 230 from adults’ and children’s services, 135 from neighbourhoods and 120 from the corporate core have applied for voluntary severance. If all were to go, the council will save £13.7m.

The council also hopes to reduce losses by shuffling workers between different jobs through its “m people” scheme.

Since 2011 the council has slashed £170 million and lost around 2,000 jobs due to government funding cuts. The additional losses will reduce its workforce by just under 30 per cent compared to pre-austerity levels.

John Clegg, the chair of the council’s second largest trade union Unite, said “as a branch we will support any  community campaign where people are fighting against cuts. We oppose any cuts to front line services and our red line as a union is that there be no compulsory redundancies.”

Branch Secretary Pat McDonagh of the council’s largest trade union Manchester UNISON said, “UNISON is well aware of the enormous difficulties facing the Council and its workers in coping with a further £80m Tory / Lib Dem cut in the budget for 2013/15.

“Whilst there will be very painful decisions to be made regarding future of delivery of services and a willingness by UNISON to work with the Council to avoid the worst outcomes for people of Manchester our position on any proposal for introducing compulsory redundancies is quite clear.

“If after the ending of the offer of Voluntary Severance / Voluntary Early Retirement the Council indicate any decision to introduce any compulsory redundancies this will be completely opposed by UNISON.

“Our current policy is to ballot all Council members in that event to take strike action. The policy will be put to our members at our AGM on 28th February for confirmation.

We believe that there has been a good history of joint working with trade unions within the City and trust that this scenario will not arise but if it does it will be rigorously resisted by UNISON.”

Richard Goulding

More: Council, Cuts, Manchester, News, Unions and workplace

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