Union won’t back more unpaid leave

Blackpool Town Hall
Blackpool Town Hall
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UNION and town hall leaders are at loggerheads over plans for Blackpool Council workers to take four days unpaid leave for the third year running.

Staff at the cuts hit authority have helped save the council £2.8m over the last two years by agreeing to the unpaid leave.

Blackpool Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn

Blackpool Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn

But “enough is enough” according to public sector union Unison, which says its thousands of members cannot afford another year of the scheme, which is predicted to save the authority £1.1m in 2013/14.

The plans have sparked debate among councillors, workers, unions and cuts campaigners.

Results of a council survey show 93.2 per cent of the 560 staff surveyed on the issue said they were happy to take the extra leave to save jobs.

But one council worker told The Gazette he and his colleagues could no longer see the benefits of doing so.

Peter Marsden of Unison

Peter Marsden of Unison

Peter Marsden, assistant branch secretary for Unison in Blackpool, told The Gazette: “What we’ve effectively done is sacrifice £2.8m of our salaries to help the council.

“Enough is enough.

“We’ve consulted widely and what we’re saying is supported by members.”

Town hall bosses said a third year of four days unpaid leave would save approximately £1.1m in the next year’s budget.

And leader Simon Blackburn added: “As a council, we appreciate the huge sacrifice staff have made.

“It has made an enormous contribution to tackling the scale of Government cuts we are facing and it has saved hundreds of jobs.”

Cuts campaigners said blame should not lie at the council’s door as Government budget cuts had forced their hands.

James Sorah, of Blackpool Against The Cuts, said: “Industrial relations wise the council is the employer, but blame lies squarely at the door of Government.”

And Mr Blackburn added: “Until the budget is finalised it is difficult to make any definitive statements. We will be writing to staff soon to put forward proposals.”

Coun Tony Williams, leader of the opposition Conservative party at Blackpool Council, said he was confident workers supported the measure.

He added: “Anything which saves jobs without compromising integrity and rights of employees has got to be the right thing to do.”

Unison has said its firm stance sets the stall should the council approach on the issue in coming years.

Mr Marsden said: “We’re drawing a line in the sand, we can’t agree to it.”

Staff have their say on further four days plans

WORKERS appear to be divided on Blackpool Council’s plans to save £1.1m through staff taking four days unpaid leave.

Union bosses brokered a deal with town hall chiefs two years ago to change workers’ terms and conditions, giving them four days leave without pay, in order to save the struggling authority £1.4m a year.

Back then staff united, saying they could understand the need to “sacrifice” salaries in order to save colleagues jobs.

Now they are split.

Carolyn Bland, food control manager in the quality standards department, said it was the “right thing”.

But Neil Mackey, who has worked for the council for 25 years, said there are many who can ill afford less pay again.

The office worker said staff should now be able to opt in or out depending on circumstances, saying those on lower incomes will be worse hit by the measure. He added: “They need to make it on a voluntary basis and see if that gets the amount required then everyone’s happy.”

But Miss Bland said: “Personally I’m happy to continue with the four days unpaid leave as long as it is a temporary measure and applies to everyone equally.

“At the moment it’s the right thing to do as it contributes to saving jobs.”

Another council office worker, who declined to be identified, said there had to be a balancing act when considering jobs.

He added: “I actually don’t mind taking the time off but there is definitely a feeling around the office this is becoming just an assumption that this will happen.

“People don’t want them taking the Mickey but if it saves jobs then you have to do it. I quite like getting an extra week off to be honest.”

And Mr Mackey added: “When this first set off it was to save jobs, providing they can show they’re saving jobs people won’t have a problem.

“I would say tell us what’s happening to the money.”

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