Article published: Thursday, January 13th 2011
The council has reiterated its commitment to its long-standing ‘no compulsory redundancies’ policy as it looks to make savings of £110m following the government’s slashing of its funding. Instead offers for voluntary redundancies and early retirement are on the table.
Around 2,000 posts, amounting to 17 per cent of the total workforce, will be made redundant by Manchester City Council following a massive cut to its funding.
The council has said that it “aims to maintain its commitment” to no compulsory redundancies, however that it will need to act ‘quickly’ to reduce its workforce. All staff have been asked to consider voluntary redundancy and those over 55 have been offered early retirement.
It is believed that it will attempt to implement the contraction of the workforce by the end of March.
Today’s announcement comes in the wake of the financial settlement for 2011/2012, unveiled in December, which saw a 8.9 per cent reduction in the money that the council receives from central government to spend on public services. Over two years this will mean a 21 per cent drop in what it currently receives.
Unions have responded angrily to the news.
Keith Hutson of the Manchester Branch of UNITE, the second largest union at the council, told MULE: “So far we feel let down by the employer. We were aware that there were some job losses in the pipe line but there were indications that this would be over a longer period of 12-18 months. We were convinced until recently – only two or three days ago – that this would be the case, yet we only found out this morning that the losses would be implemented by March.”
Responding to rumours that the union was preparing to ballot its members on strike action, he said: “Our members on the ground want action. We are going to conduct a consultative ballot to gauge the strength of feeling of members in the coming weeks.
“This is about protecting services, not just jobs. We want to engage other community groups who will be affected – old peoples’ homes and youth centres are going to be butchered by the cuts.”
On the matter of compulsory redundancies Hutson said so far the council has not indicated it will renege on its committment, and that his union “wants to hold them to that.”
In a statement UNISON spokesperson Pat McDonach said: “[Government cuts] will damage vital public services, hold back economic recovery and will lead to job losses across Manchester. UNISON Manchester Branch remains completely opposed to compulsory redundancies.”
Despite the depth of the redundancies a council press officer told MULE that “staffing levels in frontline services which people rely on will be maintained.”
Meanwhile council leader Sir Richard Leese has hit out at the government, accusing them not only of an unfair financial settlement but also of “redistributing money from Manchester to more affluent areas.” In a statement to the press he claims that Manchester will be one of the five worst-affected authorities in the country.
The evidence for this is borne out on a sub-regional level: while in the next year Manchester will lose 8.9 per cent and Salford 8.5 per cent, their relatively well-off neighbours in Tory-controlled Trafford Council and Liberal Democrat Stockport Council will be less affected, with cuts to their budgets of 3.8 per cent and 2.8 per cent respectively.
So far it is not clear where the job losses will fall. Yet departments such as Housing which are already under strain are likely to feel more pressure as the impact of cuts takes hold across the city region. At the Neighbourhood and Communities scrutiny committee on Tuesday councillors voiced concerns that Manchester would see an influx of people from across the region seeking more affordable housing – due to changes to housing benefit forcing many out of more expensive areas.
Adding to fears of decreased job security within the council is a new flexibility agreement drawn up by the Council and agreed upon by two of the main three trade unions. The Council say that the ‘M People Pathway’ will enable a more effective allocation of human resources and skills, while continuing investment in training through an £18m fund open to employees.
The deal will include a new redeployment procedure facilitating the movement of workers to different departments more swiftly.
However, two council employees who didn’t wish to be named criticised what they see as enforced flexibilisation, one of whom told MULE that “[by signing the agreement] you effectively give up your right to object to be moved around. It will be used to target perceived troublemakers.
“It looks like who refuse being transferred could face the sack for if they are on the agreement.”
Are you a council worker whose job is threatened? You can contact MULE anonymously by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
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