Unions back move for transfer of 400 workers to city council, but call for pay parity

PUBLISHED: 15:10 18 August 2020 | UPDATED: 15:10 18 August 2020

City Hall, Norwich. Inset: UNISON Norfolk branch secretary Jonathan Dunning. Picture: Nick Butcher/Steve Adams

City Hall, Norwich. Inset: UNISON Norfolk branch secretary Jonathan Dunning. Picture: Nick Butcher/Steve Adams

Nick Butcher/Steve Adams

A move which would see hundreds of workers switch to being employed by Norwich City Council has been backed by unions - but they have called for pay parity.

Norwich City Council is taking contracted-out services back in-house; Photo: Nick Butcher.Norwich City Council is taking contracted-out services back in-house; Photo: Nick Butcher.

Some 400 workers, currently employed by Norfolk County Council-owned company Norse are due to transfer to the city council in the years ahead, as City Hall takes services back in-house.

The first of the four contracts which the city council is taking back, to run directly, rather than outsourcing is environmental services, which employs 200 staff and is worth £6.75m.

The council is on the brink of agreeing a lease on a depot where they would be based, although they have not revealed the location.

The switch to City Hall control has been backed by unions representing the workers, although they have said the costs of taking on the contracts - and the pensions - will be “a challenge”.

Jonathan Dunning, Norfolk branch secretary for UNISON, and Unite regional officer Adam Oakes said: “Unite and UNISON were concerned when we heard that the city council were looking at the early termination of the contracts with Norse as we believed the compensation that the council would have to pay would be significant.

UNISON Norfolk branch secretary Jonathan Dunning. Photo : Steve AdamsUNISON Norfolk branch secretary Jonathan Dunning. Photo : Steve Adams

“We are therefore pleased the council agreed to let all the contracts run their course and take the services back in house at that time.

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“Both unions agree we would want all these workers to be directly employed by the city council, but recognise the costs of taking responsibility for these contracts will be significant and that additional pension costs would be a challenge from day one.

“However, we firmly believe that all those working on the Norse contracts should, in a reasonable timescale, have the same pay, conditions of service and pensions as those directly employed by the council.

“Both UNISON and Unite are prepared to allow the new service to settle down and find its financial feet. The first priority should then be delivering fairness to a group of workers who have been short changed for many years by the vagaries of privatisation.

“It is good to see across the country more and more local authorities seeking to bring services they are responsible for directly back ‘in house’, reversing the privatisation that has cut pay, decimated pensions and undermined the quality of public services. Hopefully local authorities across Norfolk will do likewise.”

A Norwich City Council spokesman said: “Our services are being brought back in stages over the next couple of years, and we initially expect to deliver them for the same cost although there may be some small savings we can make.

“The major driver for making this decision was to give ourselves greater control over how these services are delivered.

“We are unable to comment on matters involving staff or pensions until the formal TUPE consultation process has been completed.”

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