Unions barred from jobs talks

the adoption of a ‘no compulsory redundancy’ policy by Midlothian Council has sparked a row after trade unions were barred from making representations.

The Scottish Government policy was rubberstamped by 12 members at last week’s full council meeting.

There were no votes against the recommendation to adopt it, with immediate effect, but five members of the opposition Labour Group abstained in protest at the lack of consultation with unions.

Under instruction from chief executive Kenneth Lawrie, councillors were asked to score out and disregard a section of the report which stated: “Initial discussions with Trade Unions indicate that they will be supportive of the principles outlines in this report.”

The plan – based on a model already used by Sunderland City Council – would see an expansion in the number of trainee posts, a freeze on external recruitment, with the exception of teachers and some specialist staff, and the establishment of an ‘internal jobs market’, where council staff whose posts are no longer required in one area can be matched to vacancies in other areas.

But the UNITE trade union, which has around 400 members at Midlothian Council, is concerned that the policy will lead to pay cuts.

Sandy Smart, regional officer, told the Advertiser: “We’re aware that this policy comes from John Swinney, and so it’s no great surprise that the council has introduced it. We wanted to take a delegation before the council last week but they refused.

“Our concerns are that workers would be forced into taking jobs that are several grades below what they are currently on, and this would result in a reduction of wages. It would also lead to an unskilled and demotivated workforce.

“The reality is that this is a cost cutting exercise. Employees are not going to be transferred up the way – the bin man is never going to become the head of a department.”

Labour leader Derek Milligan (pictured) told last week’s meeting: “I had assumed that the trade unions had been in heavy negotiations with the council but it turns out that this isn’t the case.

“They asked to come here today to make representation but were refused. I would ask that we continue this report until there has been reasonable negotiation with trade unions and that there can be a comparative argument put to us.”

The council’s depute leader Owen Thompson (SNP) argued that the scheme would only be fully implemented once the recognised trade unions had been consulted.

He said: “It is clear that full consultation with the unions would be required in the detailed implementation of this policy. I find it astonishing that we can’t have a universal agreement that it is a good thing to introduce a policy of no compulsory redundancies in Midlothian.”

Leader Bob Constable (SNP) issued a statement which said: “We have a duty to our young people and others to give them a chance and increasing the number of apprentices and traineeships will make an important contribution to helping our young people get a start on their working lives.”

UNISON said it did not wish to comment on the issue.