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The truths they don't want you to read....

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Single status and regrading

The Comhairle is currently undergoing a prolonged, disruptive and morale-sapping regrading exercise for all staff, something I have blogged about before.

With the largest union saying "No!" and the Council saying "Yes!" the room for compromise is limited, to say the least.

The likely outcome seems clear - conflict, strikes and more hassle.

When into the mix is dropped an unbelievable act by a Public Sector employer. The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency plan to sack 43% of their staff next week, and simultaneously offer the re-employ them on the terms and conditions that they are currently refusing to accept.

Older readers might remember similar actions by GEC in 1966, British Airways in 1997, and Gate Gourmet in 2005, all of which stirred the Comrades in the Trade Unions to take collective action against the employers. In this case - of course - the employers are the Government by proxy.

The likely course of events was laid out by the forecast that more public bodies will have to follow the lead of Birmingham, and have mass sackings, according to Personnel Today - the magazine for the HR Professional.

The actions of SEPA are appalling, and they have been rightly described as "behaving like the worst Victorian mill owners".

This is no way to treat staff in the 21st Century, and one would expect the Government to step in; except that if they haven't been consulted, I'd be astonished. Hopefully we won't see the same confrontation in the Western Isles, but I suspect we will come very, very close to such a course of action.


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but a lot of folk are doing quite well out of working for the Comhairle and other councils in Scotland. If they don't like it why don't they leave and get another job. The rest of us not lucky to be thus featherbedded have to struggle to get by and also pay these folks future pensions.
Take it or leave it!!!

Anonymous said...

One of the main problems is that the councillors who were involved in all of this, past and present, just did not understand what they were voting on, and were as ever swayed by one sided reports.
I have just accepted my pay cut and longer working hours as to refuse would mean that my employment would be terminated without redundancy pay or insurance cover.
I will have a new contract but what is the use if it is a worthless as the old one

Anonymous said...

Response to Anon 1:31pm

The problem with working for the Comhairle of course is having to put up with the attitude of arseholes like you every single day of our working lives. Everyone knows better than a Council employee. Most sensible people wouldn't do the job for twice the money.

Good job with a prospects and security, not any more.

Anonymous said...

Unlike employees in the Central Belt or elsewhere in the UK there are no alternatives for those currently employed by the Comhairle.

Anonymous said...

Generous holiday leave and pay, sick "leave", paternity and maternity pay at more than the statutory minimum rates, early retirement, enhanced pensions, flexitime, overtime. I'm surprised anyone in the Comhairle actually has time to do any work.

The issue here is that the Public Sector has pandered to the employees for far too long. This has resulted in an overinflated workforce earning overinflated wages.

I suggest that you get yourself a real job in the real world and then you might realise that even the new deal is a lot better than most of us civvies get in a lifetime. Even better still, why don't you risk everything and set up your own business, then you might realise what real work and long working hours for very little monetary reward means.

Anonymous said...

Civil servants suffer from an image problem, they have never had the sympathy of the general public. They are often seen as faceless beaurocrats, but the reality is that they fullfil necessary roles which will often provide the employee with little job satisfaction.
Their pay does not match what would be expected in an equivilent private sector post (not on the mainland anyway), and the conditions of service can be looked on as the "real" reward for doing what is often a thankless task.
RE the "pay offer". When discussing such major changes, its wrong for ANY employee to be told to either take it or leave it.
RE SEPA - with Salmonds commitment to bring the hatchet to the agencies and quangos, this could be the first of many.

Anonymous said...

I have a better idea, why don't we get rid of Councils altogether, we don't need Planners telling us what we can build and where, let the Town and Country be developed where anybody or any business wants to. We don't need Environmental Health protecting us from unscrupulous traders, and dirty Restaurants, we don't need our dustbins emptied, our children educated our old people looked after,the list is endless of what we don't need when it comes to the Council Services. Get rid of the lots thtas what I say.

Then when the whole area has gone pear shaped we can be satisfied that that no Council workers were employed having any easy time earning vast ammounts of money and taking long holidays and we can be very happy that that it didn't cost us anything in Community Charges.

Anonymous said...

To Anon 8:36

Labour wanted to cut the quangos too but didn't have the balls as they's put Labour cronies in charge of them!

Anonymous said...

To anon of 3.24pm

If living in a situation where being faced with the choice of buying a pair of shoes or food makes me an arsehole then so be it. You just show the contempt for the people that pay your wages. Perhaps I'm just jealous that I could perhaps one day get a wage that I could live off?
Ok I'll be an arsehole then if you want me to be, I vote for privitisation of the whole lot - you never know we arseholes might get a better deal

Anonymous said...

To anon of 1:31/12:42

Privatisation of the Council,now isn't that an idea worthy of a blog site all of its own!

Anonymous said...

To anon of 3.24pm

You own a Computer with some sort of connection to the internet are you realy as hard up as you suggest. Choice of food or shoes, get rid of your computer! I would also suggest that if your income is that low you are also getting help with your Community Charge and don't pay the full rate, if this is the case you still get the same excellent service for less than those of us who pay the full rate. If you are paying the full rate perhaps you ought to contact you local Council to see what financial help is available to you.

The point I was making that everyone has an opinion about Council workers. Is that they are only to keen to express that opinion even though it may be quite hurtful to those at who are trying to do the best job they can with very little or no appreciation from those that they are trying to help.

A colleague of mine was once prompted to respond to a particulary rude person 'I am a public servant not a public convenience' This attitude is very common we are not public convenience's we are public servants all we ask is to be treated with respect.

Anonymous said...

'I am a public servant not a public convenience'

Public servant/public convenience - you're both full of pish.

Anonymous said...

anon 4:03 seems to be prepared to treat public servants with a contempt that they don't deserve.
Government workers at the bottom of the food chain will often have no control over how they do their jobs, they have to work within the bounds of rules given to them from above. Implementation of unpopular policy and dealing with people problems is neither pleasant or easy.
Being a public servant does have security & an enviable pension scheme, but sometimes its not the bed of roses that some would have you believe.

Anonymous said...

'Choice of food or shoes, get rid of your computer!'

This computer is one that someone already got rid of. It's 'get rid of'value isn't very much. But thank you anyway for your kindness and compassion comrade.

Anonymous said...

I note your comment Angus that "This is no way to treat staff in the 21st Century". I assume you were referring not just to SEPA, but also to the Comhairle.

It is worth noting therefore, that you, as a former councillor, are sufficiently uneasy about the way that staff are being treated within the authority, to express your concern publicly. I have neither read nor heard a single word in support of Comhairle staff from a currently serving elected member. Not even an acknowledgement of the financial loss facing some employees, never mind mention of the extension of working hours.

Why is that? Are elected members barred from commenting on issues of pay and conditions and the way staff are treated? No such restraint seems to apply to their desire for involvement in the personnel issues of other public authorities. Yes - of course I mean Western Isles NHS Board.

There, I've written it, 'personnel', that dreaded word, that nemesis now mutated into 'Human Resources'. The real enemy!

Twenty one years ago I started work for the Comhairle after having been employed by British Telecom (now BT, then part of the Post Office) for the previous sixteen. What a shock to the system that was! British Telecom's personnel service mission was clearly to look after the welfare of their employees. The Comhairle's personnel service on the other hand, seemed to operate from the premise that it was their job to screw the staff. Nothing has changed there then...

To illustrate, from my own experience, just how nasty and personal things can get.

One day a few years ago I had a scheduled meeting at 1000 hours with my Director, who was also my line manager. When I arrived at her office, there was no sign of her so I sat and waited, and waited, and waited. Eventually she came bounding into the room, beaming, waving her arms above her head and shouting, "we won, we won". I sat there stupidly, not knowing which team she supported, until she recognised my bafflement and told me that a former employee had just lost their action against the Comhairle. I was shocked to realise that she and obviously others, saw this as a cause for celebration.

There are good people working for the Comhairle, dedicated people, doing a fine job for the authority and the community. They deserve better than to be constantly under threat of loss of jobs or earnings. They deserve some support from elected members instead of the current hand-wringing 'It's nothing to do with me' attitude that seems to prevail. It's hard to believe that some of these councillors were themselves employed by the authority.

Come on you lot - show some solidarity with your workers.

Anonymous said...

the problem with council workers seem to increase exponentially as the pay level rises- the ones who actually get their hands dirty are usually ok to deal with, the ones with clean hands but muddy boots can normally see sense but may be tied up in red tape of others making, but the clowns in the white house who have never seen real life on an average island wage do the most damage and generally walk away with a fat pension when it goes belly up! I suggest that any council employee on more than £40k per year takes a pay cut for a year or two 'till the books balance (might work at the health board too). The old arguement of needing to offer high pay to get the best staff clearly has not been working here, so lets offer different perks to entice the best- clean air, lovely views of empty moorland with eagles overhead, little traffic ('cos of fuel costs for the common 5/8) plenty of domestic staff available cheap from Poland.........

Anonymous said...

The way I see it is that most of the council staff are of poor quality. I should know - I work with them! When you can only choose from a small pool of candidates (i.e yer cousins)you are always going to get below par staff.

That is the problem with all this 'bring back the Murdo's' from the mainland who left.
Dont think so. There are lots of happy Murdo's on the mainland who have no thought of returning but like to say to 'maw and paw' that they might just to keep them sweet.

Stop the nepitimisim and these islands might have a chance.

Anonymous said...

Murdo, "show some solidarity with the workers" will that be like Labour have done then?

Anonymous said...

Word is that the Chief Executive has emailed all councillors pointing out that staff are breaking their code of employment by contacting them with their tales of woe....