0151 666 3040 unison1@wirral.gov.uk

Coronavirus update 14.12.20

Hi Everyone

We hope you are all well and that you had a good weekend. This email is for the attention of our Council employed members only and relates to financial matters, including the council budget and the public sector pay freeze. This email also includes details of your invitation to a members meeting on 17 December 2020.

Wirral  Council Budget

Last week  Wirral Council released papers ahead of their Policy and Resources Committee, detailing the budget options they will be considering. The documents outline over £10m of savings; and although not all of them may be adopted (indeed there is a question as to whether any of the options needs to be pursued), we are sure they will cause concern amongst many Wirral Unison members and our community.

The full papers can be found here and the budget options here.

Many of the options give us cause for concern and we will be raising a detailed response to the options, and asking for further information on what they entail. We will take the opportunity to highlight some of the proposals that immediately jump out at us, but we will provide further analysis in the coming days and weeks:

  • Closure of Europa Pools: £640,000.
  • Reduction in Youth Provision: £200,000
  • Review of Museums Service: £327,500
  • Wirral Evolutions: £500,000
  • IT Staffing Structure £618,000
  • Review of Grass Cutting £350
  • Stopping School Crossing Patrol £276,300

Wirral Unison have a clear stance of opposition to any compulsory redundancies, and have made this strongly known to the Council. We are, of course a member led union, and will be seeking your views on these proposals this week in order that we can proceed with a clear position that is informed by you, the members. To this end we are holding a meeting with your workplace representatives tomorrow, 15 December. We will also be holding two Members meetings on 17 December at 12pm and 5:30pm. These meetings will take place on MS teams with joining information  to follow. Please make every effort to attend one of these meetings, the cuts the council considering are not insignificant and we need your views as the members effected.

Unpaid Leave

We can confirm that there will be no extension of unpaid leave. The council have signalled that they are happy to discuss the continuation of a Christmas shutdown with us and we will be discussing these plans with the council in the coming period.

The Cost of Homeworking

We wrote to you last week, detailing our intention to write to every Labour Councillor to congratulate them on their motion condemning the public sector pay freeze and imploring them to agree to a Homeworking Allowance.

We have written to Labour councillors, highlighting our concerns and urging them to do the right thing by our members. In our correspondence we have highlighted that many of our members have faced a 20% real term pay cut over the last decade at the hands of the Tories, and that once again it is our members bearing the burden. Indeed that situation for many of our members is intensified by the need to work from home during this crisis.

We have advised elected members of our concerns that for many of our members who are able to work from home, the financial pressures are significant. Highlighting that domestic energy usage rose by 15% during the spring lockdown bringing a substantial increase in utility bills. And that we have moved into winter the impact is significantly multiplied, as daylight hours grow shorter, and heating is switched on an additional 50 hours a week on average.

We have advised councillors that we are aware that the Council has saved significant sums  through the move to home working; including through recued utility costs and mileage claims. We have informed councillors that despite asking for consideration to be given to a homeworking allowance on numerous occasions, we have been repeatedly rebuffed on financial grounds.  

We have asked our elected councillors in the Labour group to call upon Wirral Council Officers to enter into immediate negotiations with the Unions to reach as agreement on provision of a Homeworking Allowance.

Public Sector Pay Freeze- debunking the myths on public sector pay!
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a public sector pay freeze in the government’s spending review last month, backed up by some claims that need further analysis. Let’s unpack some of the chancellor’s statements and see how they stack up when they’re checked and given a bit more context.

  • ‘Pay has been rising faster in the public sector than the private sector’

Pay rises have been higher on average in the public sector over the last year. However, they have been lower than the increases in the private sector for much of the last ten years.  Averages can be misleading – which was obviously the chancellor’s intention. 
A recent Office for National Statistics (ONS) study that compared jobs on a like-for-like basis found that the average public sector worker was paid 3% less than a private sector worker in 2019 and had been earning less in terms of gross pay (including overtime and bonus pay) every year since 2014. 
Public sector workers only earn more than comparable private sector workers when pensions are added to the comparison, because of the private sector’s widespread destruction of defined benefit schemes.

  • ‘This is a pay “pause” for one year – and the NHS will be exempt’

This is in fact a pay freeze, and when inflation is taken into account, a pay freeze is actually a pay cut. This is because the cost of living increases, whilst wages fall behind. If rent, food and petrol costs are rising whilst wages are frozen, workers lose out.
As for the NHS exemption, the chancellor did not commit any funding and has kicked this into the long grass of a pay review body process. Our members in the NHS more than deserve a rise this year for their work during the COVID crisis. This can’t wait on a lengthy pay review body process.

  • ‘Those not working for the NHS who earn less than the £24k median will get a pay rise of at least £250’

Members in local government and schools will be familiar with these promises of a flat rate boost for the lowest-paid. Historically, they have often failed to materialise – with payments often left to the discretion of cash-strapped councils. With local government facing a huge funding gap it’s difficult to see how it will be any different this time.
It’s also unclear whether this will reach the lowest-paid workers in the care sector and other low-paid parts of public services that have been outsourced. The government must clarify the position of these workers.       

  • ‘A pay freeze is necessary to ensure fairness between the public and private sectors’

This is an attempt to divide and conquer. It cynically pitches public against private instead of uniting the UK behind a national effort to combat the health and economic crisis we face.  It’s also economically short-sighted. People working in the public services will spend on their local high streets. If you make someone feel economically insecure by freezing their pay, they may be less likely to spend, which in turn threatens more job losses in the private sector.               
UNISON will be campaigning against this attack on our members’ pay and coordinating our response with our bargaining groups and, through the TUC, with other trade unions.

That’s all for today everyone, we hope you continue to find our regular email updates of use.

As always, please do pass our updates on to colleagues and encourage them to join Unison if they haven’t already. Here’s the link to join up! JOIN UNISON

We’ll be back in touch with further updates soon.

In solidarity!

Your Wirral Unison Team
Central email: unison1@wirral.gov.uk
Telephone: 07899713498 or 07899715085


Published on: December 15, 2020