Job Evaluation mess of Labour-run Bridgend Council
Posted on Tuesday, November 8, 2011 at 4:55pm
LAST night, I arranged a meeting at Bridgend’s Evergreen Hall to hear from council staff their very real concerns over the job evaluation process. Ian Titherington from Plaid Cymru, and with a strong trade union background in Cardiff, spoke at the meeting to try and answer the concerns of the many people who turned up and who are utterly frustrated with the mess that this Labour-run Council has created.
Bridgend, of course, is among the last local authorities to carry out job evaluation, a process started several years ago when council finances were in a much better state. Under the current plan, around 2,000 workers – a quarter of the workforce – face pay cuts. Of the 5,800 other workers subject to job evaluation, 3,173 will see their pay increased while 2,640 wage packets will stay the same. The majority of those having their pay cut will lose less than £1,000, but 2.2% will lose more than £5,000, some up to £10,000.
The council says it will not award back pay to those who have been underpaid for years, because it “simply cannot afford it”. However, a leading employment lawyer has told the Glamorgan Gazette that Bridgend council could face a “flood of employment tribunals” if back pay is legitimately owed. Union members were balloted over industrial action after Unison said negotiations had come to very little, although I understand from the local Unison rep who was present last night, that negotiations are ongoing, but they can’t divulge the nature of the negotiations at this stage.
David MacGregor, assistant chief executive at BCBC, has said: ”Our job evaluation proposals are focusing on protecting posts, avoiding potential job losses and achieving a fair and equitable pay structure which is affordable in the current climate. It is important to remember that these proposals have not yet been finalised and are still subject to staff consultation and trade union negotiation. The proposals for public sector pensions are being led by central Government, not the council, and remain an entirely separate issue to job evaluation.”
Nonetheless, staff have told me that they have been sent information on the process, with no covering letter, and were left to work it out for themselves that they would be losing £5,000 a year. Many were also left to find out for themselves which ‘family’ of staff structure they were in, and therefore, to find out for themselves which salary they would get following this process.
At one school I know of, some £47,000 is being lost among 19 staff, and line managers were not informed of the extent of the proposals. Teaching assistants have also gone from annualised pay to term time hours, and many present at the meeting in this situation told me that they had not received this information formally from the Council.
The material sent out included an FAQ section that suggested that those who were unable to meet bills as a consequence of the jobs evaluation process should visit CAB for advice, which I found shockingly inadequate – especially for those staff, who, under the current proposals could lose up to £10,000 of their income. One person told me that due to the proposed pay cut to her salary, she would have to tell her teenage daughter that she could no longer go to University – ironic for a parent who has worked in education for a lifetime.
While Bridgend council can hardly be blamed for the financial mess we are now in, it didn’t take the opportunity to carry this process out when things weren’t this bad. It must meet all of its commitments and extend more help to those that need it by going back to the drawing board, as Angelsey Council did when it realised that the Job Evaluation proposals were not fit for purpose.
I was also astounded to find out that the council is sending out examples of forms that were filled in during the first stage of the Job Evaluation process to current staff, to assist them in filling out forms – but with the personal data of the staff attached to their comments. This is a clear breach of data protection, and I urged those present at the meeting who raised this to take the matter further.
Ian Titherington told the meeting that Bridgend has been the worst council in Wales in dealing with Job Evaluation, and that it must be exposed for this failure. He also said that staff must ensure that the current proposals are not passed, and that the ballot to accept the proposal, when it happens, should be rejected outright until the council realise that it is in the wrong.
The lack of consultation, and the lack of communication with staff has been shocking. It was clear that everybody in the room were very unhappy with the Council. Many were appalled that some Labour Councillors had even claimed to tell them that it was not a matter for them to deal with, but for the Trade Union- very misleading indeed when it is in fact elected members making this decision, and not the Trade Unions.
This attitude is totally unacceptable, and Labour in Bridgend need to grasp this issue now, and renegotiate the whole process so that staff can actually have faith in it, as opposed to being angry about how the Labour-run council is devaluing their jobs, and hugely disrespecting them in the process.