UNISON, the largest union representing City of Edinburgh Council staff has warned that ‘bad faith’ in consultation about cuts could lead to huge disruption as the union fights to save Edinburgh’s local services.
In a promised consultation exercise, UNISON had appointed lead stewards in all departments to work with senior officials and had meetings with council chiefs. Now union leaders say that press statements by council leaders and reports back from stewards have convinced them that the consultation is a ‘sham’.
In a letter to council leader Jenny Dawe, the union’s Service Conditions Convener John Ross points to the fact that unions and the council were meant to be working together to minimise the effect of government cuts but slams the consultation process as “rhetorical” and accuses the council of preferring to advise staff of redundancies “through the media rather than through established dialogue with the unions”.
He criticises this as a “cavalier approach” to industrial relations, saying the consultation has been “little other than lip-service”.
Edinburgh UNISON President John Stevenson warned, “Edinburgh faces its biggest crisis ever with huge cuts in services. These services are provided by people. People like home helps, social workers, road workers, environmental staff and workers in trading standards, education, early years and public safety.
“They are not highly paid – some are already the lowest paid in Scotland and under the council’s pay plans that would get worse. They get no big bonuses, no cheap mortgages and, at an average of £3,800 a year across the UK, no ‘gold-plated’ pensions. The very jobs that hold the city together are under threat.
“These cuts will affect everyone. Those who depend on the services, the staff that provide them and the private companies that depend on council contracts. These cuts are no way to build out of a recession.
“The union will work with the council but not if the consultation is in bad faith. We are prepared to join with them to stave off the worst effects of these huge cuts. But if they are not prepared to work with us, we will fight for our members and Edinburgh’s services.
“That would be painful for our members and the public and remember our members are the public too. But we would have no choice. And with so many issues at stake, it could be the biggest dispute that Edinburgh has ever seen”.