Formal Response Re Council Re-organisation Phase 12

Joint UNION Response – Phase 12

Phase 12 proposes to close 2 local libraries 1 in South Chingford and 1 in Harrow Green and to potentially, make 18.8 full time equivalent staff redundant.

We have attached a list comments in relation to the BMG survey (which UNISON opposed) carried out in Waltham Forest. Rather than supporting Waltham Forest’s proposal we have found that a great deal of the survey actually goes against the proposal. The findings of the report seem to suggest that our elderly residents in the North of the borough are going to be severely affected by the decision to close South Chingford Library and that Waltham Forest is unlikely to retain their custom even though 90% of residents aged 65+ have been visiting the same library for 10 years.

Residents were asked why they used Harrow Green library; the highest percentage in the survey said they use it  “in connection with finding employment”.  Closing this library will clearly disadvantage the unemployed in one of the most deprived areas of the borough.

There does not appear to be any evidence to support the need for Sunday opening of libraries, in fact, the survey shows only 1% of users said they wanted Sunday opening. We have no record of any assessment that has been carried out showing the cost of opening on a Sunday with staff pay, electricity, security etc. against the potential usage.

Rather than support the proposals the survey clearly shows that our elderly and disadvantaged residents will suffer from the loss of the 2 facilities. This goes against the council’s proposed aim of putting Residents First.

The proposals suggest changing job descriptions for scale 5 staff and reducing the grade to scale 3 as well as reducing the workforce by 18.8 full time posts. The potential demotion and dismissal of Scale 5 Library Assistant can be contrasted against the unknown, but potentially beneficial outcomes for the Head of Customer Services and the Head of Libraries. At the moment their posts are listed as “To Be Comfirmed”. They are the only posts with no indicative gradings in the consultation document. Once again this demonstrates the preferential treatment and protection that this Council affords to managers but not to the front line staff that face massive pay cuts from the Terms and Conditions Review, followed by demotion and finally they will have Sunday working imposed on them at the very moment that weekend enhancements are removed.

When looked at in greater detail the new job description does not capture half the tasks that will need to continue in the posts based at Walthamstow Town Hall site. This group of staff will be carrying out the same tasks as staff in the libraries if the proposals are accepted. In addition, they handle cheques and cash, provide information on local events, deal with queries regarding parking tickets and planning.

Management has stated that Reception Staff fulfill a “Meet and Greet” role, which again goes against the Residents First “ethos”. No member of the public wants to go to a Council reception to be told to “wait for somebody” to deal with their issue/query. They will want as much resolution at the first point of contact as possible. That is what the staffs currently provide. This is NOT reflected in the Scale 3 JD’s.

It also does not appear to reflect the overall rationale which is to create a smaller and flatter organizational structure with generic job descriptions. The Unions believe this also shows that managers are not aware of the functions of posts before they are putting forward proposals for change and in some cases deleting the posts.

This, again, could be down to the speed these proposals are created at, with no thought given to current tasks and where they sit, the roles that are currently performed and the potential impact of the change. The Unions urge the council to spend more time in the creation of these proposals and to be as inclusive of the current staff in the “creative” stage as possible so that staff can be pro-active in their recommendations, rather than re-active when they see a proposal that will not work and also leaves their role at risk.

The proposals, rather than creating a flatter structure appear to be creating lower paid posts at the bottom of the scale and increasing the number of PO grades, a feature which is appearing more and more often in the later phases.

Staff affected by the proposals in phase 12 are also among the worst affected by the cuts to terms and conditions. This staff group will be losing premium payments paid for weekend working but are expected to work on Saturdays and Sundays. To some of the lowest paid workers in the borough this could mean losing thousands of pounds a year from their already low incomes with no evidence that Sunday opening will be beneficial or successful.

It also shows the lack of investment the council has in the work/life balance of its staff. Where staff voluntarily gave up weekend time with their families to do extra work, the council now expects them to do this for nothing. And this is based on a “theory” that our residents want weekend openings.

Unions suggest that the detail of the BMG survey be looked at again in more detail before the decision to remove 2 valuable resources and make more staff redundant is made. Unions also suggest that staff be involved in creating the job descriptions to avert the need to re-write them during the consultation process.

David Knight, Branch Secretary, UNISON
Christine Street, Transformation Officer, UNISON
Moshe Ash, Branch President, GMB
Kevin Parslow, Branch Secretary, UNITE

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