UNISON against the cuts at Waltham Forest Council

Below is an email sent from the Branch Secretary to local Labour MP’s.

Dear Stella and John,

Let me start by wishing you a happy new year. Unfortunately, it looks like it will be another difficult and miserable year for many of our members and many residents of Waltham Forest.

I’m writing to update you on the cuts programme in Waltham Forest Council. As you know this Labour administration will be cutting the pay of low paid workers whilst putting the highly paid on newer and better pay scales from 23rd January 2012. The Staffing Committee of Waltham Forest made the final decision and managed to avoid the proposals ever going to Full Council or Cabinet. You are familiar with the arguments, which we had hoped you would share with us. We were working under the impression that we could agree that the low paid should be protected from salary and pay cuts but it seems that we are not able to protect the Council’s lowest paid staff.

The Council are now also proposing serious cuts to the pay of many nursery nurses under Single Status. Something like 111 of the 198 nursery nurses will experience pay cuts as they are forced on to new part time contracts that defy the National Terms and Conditions for nursery workers in educational establishments. These workers are lower paid female staff and the Council’s proposals smack of sex discrimination. Again, there will be no discussion or challenge at Full Council or at Cabinet.

Phase 12 of the cuts also comes into effect on 23rd January and will mean approximately 30 job losses in Libraries and Waltham Forest Direct (including UNISON Branch Chair, Nancy Taaffe). Management have, in our view, deliberately manipulated the cuts in order to be able to make staff that they perceive as challenging redundant. We are now up to our 20th phase of cuts and George Osborne has repaid dutiful cutting local authorities like ours with more cuts.  These cuts will not be discussed at Full Council or Cabinet.

The Council’s latest proposals include changing the local job evaluation scheme so that managerial posts graded PO6 and above are evaluated to take into account market forces so that management pay can again be increased.

Last year our Labour council passed on devastating cuts to Children and Young People’s Services. The local anti-cuts union and UNISON marched against those cuts and virtually no labour politician was present or has been vocal in opposing  the cuts in Waltham Forest that are  devastating our borough.

Now our libraries are being cut and those that remain are being merged with Waltham Forest Direct with the smaller ones being put on part-time hours. Libraries will be expected to deliver these services as well as the traditional library services:

Making payments:

  • Council Tax
  • Business Rates
  • Parking fines

Reporting problems:

  • Council house repairs
  • Fly tipping
  • Noise pollution
  • Street problems
  • Bin collections

Applying for:

  • Parking permits
  • Housing
  • Housing benefits
  • Blue badge
  • Council Tax benefits

Our members are asking whether our managers have ever tried reading a story to a group of school children whilst someone is shouting about failure to pay their housing benefit? That’s what happened at Leyton Library in the pilot scheme before the police were called. We believe that this kind of scenario will be played out post January 23rd unless something is done now.

It is not good enough for us to complain about the Tories and the how poverty encourages drugs, gangs, loan sharks etc. We would like to see our local Council actively engaged in fighting poverty and  pursuing policies that stand up for the poor and support working people when they stand up for themselves like  in the recent pensions strike. But our local Council is not doing that. Instead it is making its lower paid workers poorer whilst looking after its higher paid officers.

Our council have delegated powers to the senior managers at the Town Hall, they have even given them pay increases while all other staff are on a pay freeze. The manager in charge of Residents First is now on nearly £100,000 and the Head of HR saw her pay increase by £11,000 over just a few months. The rest of us have to take pay cuts, increased work-loads or unemployment.

We are really concerned that our Council now issue dismissal notices to drive their cuts through, much like Murdoch did in the eighties. They are also attacking trade union facilities. UNISON has lost 3.5 full time secondments over the last 10 months, at a time when our members need more support, advice and help than ever.

It may sound trite but it is difficult to believe that this is all happening under a Labour administration.

We would like to discuss all this with you and your colleagues in the hope that we might work at trying to put together some sort of resistance to the cuts at a local level.

Yours sincerely

Dave Knight, Branch Secretary

(originally posted 4.1.12)

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