Staff face hits as county council cuts costs

Yeovil Express: COUNTY Hall in Taunton. COUNTY Hall in Taunton.

STAFF could have to work more hours for the same pay under measures being discussed in a bid to cut £3million from Somerset County Council’s wage bill.

Bosses are being warned the proposals will reduce already low morale still further, while staff could refrain from working more than their allotted hours.

Among changes to terms and conditions being considered are:

  • Reducing annual leave by two days, with staff able to buy back lost leave entitlement and cutting weekly hours to 35, with salaries cut pro rata.
  • Increasing the working week from 37 to 40 hours with no increase in pay – or offering staff the option of sticking to the same hours and taking a pay cut.
  • Not paying sick pay for the first three working days of absence.

A worker, who asked not to be named, said: “It’s a slap in the face. They’re telling me I’m going to get paid less, which doesn’t take into account the extra hours I put in to complete tasks.

“They can forget about goodwill in the future if that’s how they treat us.”

Arminel Goodall, UNISON’s Somerset county branch secretary, has written to members claiming the ‘unwelcome’ proposals follow a three-year pay freeze and 1% pay rise this year, equating to an 18% pay cut in real terms since 2010.

She told the the News: “Somerset County Council staff are clearly some of the lowest paid workers in the public sector and are already struggling to meet household bills. Staff are anxious.

“We believe these ill-conceived proposals are poor reward for the hard work staff have put in over the past four years in delivering the savings the council has said it needs to make, while maintaining a service for the public of Somerset in the face of reductions in both resources and staff.”

A spokesman for the county council said: “We have been very clear with staff and residents across Somerset that we are facing reduced income but our costs and demand for services are still increasing.

“We are looking at all our services – including staff terms and conditions – to try to reduce this deficit.

“In relation to the UNISON release, we can confirm that we will consult with staff in the new year about proposed changes to sickness payments and payment protection for staff moved to a lower grade role.”

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