Two weeks ago I wrote about the unions emphatically rejecting changes to terms and conditions for staff at Hull City Council. The leader of the council, Steve Brady, has previously cited one of the highest mileage rates of any council in the country and high overtime costs as two examples of why changes are needed. These changes would have made savings of £2.8 million.
It was revealed in the Hull Daily Mail this morning that the council’s cabinet has agreed to start a 45-day consultation over the termination of current contracts, and will aim to replace them with new terms and conditions of employment. Staff will be re-employed on new contracts from 1 December unless agreement can be reached with the unions on the issue.
The unions only have themselves to blame. If they had agreed reasonable changes to terms and conditions, jobs would have been protected and the council’s leadership would not have had to resort to these measures to balance the books. There was a telling comment from Mick Whale, the National Union of Teachers Hull Secretary. Writing in The Socialist magazine, he said:
Increasingly, the battle to defend jobs, terms and conditions is taking on a political rather than simply industrial colour. Council employees are increasingly understanding that they need a different leadership in the council. Some see this as a change in the Labour leadership but many are questioning whether they can support Labour at all.
This battle has always been political rather than industrial. It has always been a battle between a council leadership making difficult choices and union leaders who ideologically refuse to move from their entrenched position. Instead of protecting their members’ interests, they may lose many of their members as their members lose their jobs.
I hope staff at Hull City Council will see sense, reject the advice they are getting from their union leaders, and accept reasonable changes that will save taxpayers’ money and help protect jobs. It’s a no-brainer really.