Council axes mandatory unpaid leave proposals for staff
PUBLISHED: 15:48 17 January 2019 | UPDATED: 10:01 21 January 2019
Suffolk County Council has scrapped plans to force all staff to take a day of unpaid leave each year as part of cost-cutting measures, following union pressure.
The first draft of the council’s budget published in November proposed to make staff take two days of unpaid leave over two years, with the money coming out of their monthly salaries.
Pressure from UNISON, the trade union which supports public sector workers, resulted in the council changing that proposal to one day for one year, but after the union’s ballot revealed a 95% rate against the plans, the council has now backed down.
A county council spokesman said: “Following valuable staff feedback and meaningful negotiations with UNISON, we have decided to remove the proposal to apply unpaid leave for 2019/20 and 2020/21 for all staff.
“Our staff are passionate about serving the community they work in and have experienced a lot of change in recent years.
“The decision to remove mandatory leave will not impact on the other two reward and performance proposals we would like to implement in 2019/20.
“The first of these is the reinstatement of pay progression for staff who meet individual performance criteria. The second offer is to align our pay scales with new national pay scales, which will positively affect every employee on single status terms and conditions.
“We met with UNISON yesterday morning to present our final position and will continue to meet regularly with them over the coming weeks.”
the decision has been welcomed by UNISON. Regional organiser Sam Leigh said: “We’d like to thank the council for seeing sense and dropping this unfair pay cut.
“Council finances are stretched but it’s not right that the staff who have struggled to keep services running through years of austerity should pay the price with cuts to their pay. We’re glad the Council has acknowledged this today.
“We’d also like to pay tribute to the staff who told the council in no uncertain terms that they wouldn’t accept a pay cut.
“They’ve proved that by standing together you can fight for what’s right and win.”
It was not clear whether staff would have been able to chose the day of leave themselves, or whether all would have been required to take it at the same time, but council finance chiefs claimed it would save around £250,000.
A poll run by this newspaper revealed that 86% of 554 voters felt staff should not be forced to take unpaid leave
Councillor Andrew Stringer from the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent group, said: “We’re very pleased Suffolk County Council has finally listened to its staff and will not be inflicting mandatory unpaid leave on them. It was a daft proposal in the first place.
“Our front-line council staff are working incredibly hard to provide services in a difficult financial environment. The last thing we should be doing is punishing them with a pay cut.”
Sarah Adams, Leader of the Labour group, added: “This proposal looked half-baked from the outset so this u-turn is already overdue.
“The idea that our already overworked staff should further bear the cost of failing Conservative economic policies is simply unacceptable.
“That the council would even consider treating their own employees like this is really disappointing.”