Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Bonus balls

So, what's the story behind the focus in the Birmingham Post and Evening Mail over council workers' bonus payments?

Cllr Alan Rudge - the Tory currently holding the baton for 'equalities and human resources' - has been talking to the press. He's conducting a very unsubtle PR operation to soften up the ground and get the public angry about unreasonable bonuses paid to council staff. Nothing like a headline in the local press to poison the mind against the unions and the council staff.

Important points to remember are that this is actually about some of the lowest paid staff employed by the council. Certainly, there will be anomalous agreements that need to be dealt with properly - every large organisation ends up with a multiplicity of different contractual terms that are set up over time and some of them are bound to be unfairly easy on the employees. What you also need to remember is that behind this nasty little press war is a plan to scrap all bonus schemes. A professional approach would be to deal with the anomalies, but Rudge prefers to wield the sledgehammer to crack this particular nut.

These bonuses make up a considerable chunk of pay for some of the employees at the bottom end of the council payroll. For every union official on £91,000, there are dozens of workers doing the essential work that keeps our city functioning and not taking home anything that sum - you may scoff at the gully cleaner getting stand-by payments, but I bet you would be a damn sight unhappier if there was nobody about to deal with a flooded storm drain late at night. Note that the articles say that workers 'can' double their pay - not that they have. In order to maximise their earnings and achieve those figures, many of them would have to work hours that would put them outside the limits of the European Working Time Directive.

I see that Rudge has promised fairer pay scales from 1 April 2007 - does that mean a proper period of consultation over a new contract or will it be imposed?

Another question springs to mind - when the Birmingham Mail was shown this secret report, did anyone consider the Data Protection Issues involved? At least one individual employee ' a top union official ' must have been specifically pointed out to the journalists, along with the bollard cleaner mentioned in the reports. Somebody has broken the rules here and I think we can all guess at which desk that responsibility stops.

This isn't about resolving anomalies or even sorting out the valid discrimination issues - this is about taking money away from some of those essential workers that allow our city to function. They're angry and they have every right to be.

1 comment:

Bob Piper said...

Rudge and co. would do better to keep their mouths shut. Experience elsewhere shows that if solicitors such as Stefan Cross get involved in these Equal Pay disputes they can gost a Council like Birmingham 100's of million pounds in settlements. The unions have a vested interest in not bankrupting the Council, the solicitors have one thing only in mind, money for those they represent... and their fee is based on what they can extract.... and then Cross sues the union on behalf of the low paid for not furthering their case. He has already won a million pound compensation from the GMB, and the estimate for solvinving the low pay issue for Scotland is well, well in excess of 500 million pounds... and Birmingham's manual workforce could result in claims over 200 million if it went to court.

So Rudge's bit of cheap publicity and trying to look tough could prove very, very costly indeed.