All 6,500 Shropshire County Council employees have been sent 90 – day redundancy notices last week, informing them that from the 1st October this year, they will effectively be fired and rehired on dramatically reduced terms and conditions, including a 5.4% pay cut and the withdrawal of sick pay and holiday benefits.
The vicious and draconian proposals echo those which have been proposed have attracted wide-spread criticism from many, including Tory councillor and former Mayor of Shrewsbury David Farmer, who has called on Council Leader Keith Barrow and Chief Executive Kim Ryley to resign “for sending such letters.” The proposals will affect every single worker at the council, and many believe they will be as much as £3000 worse off each year.
Alan James, branch secretary of Shrewsbury UNISON, has said of the proposals: “The plans put forward by the Tory council, led by Leader Keith Barrow and Chief Executive Kim Ryley, represent an unprecedented attack on council staff. The council claims that this is the only way to save enough money to stop compulsory redundancies, but we know they have already earmarked £13million of taxpayers’ money for a “rainy day” slush fund. We believe that these attacks are unnecessary as it is clear that the council have the resources to offer us a much better deal. The real purpose of these proposals is to undermine the terms and conditions of council workers and make us more attractive to private sector vultures such as SERCO Group. Our members are simply not prepared to accept these proposals and we are intending to ballot for industrial action.”
Chief Executive of the council, Kim Ryley, will be well known to anyone from Hull. Before becoming the first full-time Chief Executive ever at Shropshire County Council, he was one of the highest paid local government officials in the country, when he held the position of Chief Executive at Hull City Council, earning in excess of £200,000 per year and overseeing huge spending cuts.
Given that this tactic has also been used recently in Southampton, it is clear that the tactic of “fire and rehire” is one that we can expect other councils to employ in the future. This disgraceful treatment of public sector workers cannot be allowed to take place, and the entire trade union movement, in both the public and private sector, should offer solidarity and support to council workers in Shropshire, Southampton and anywhere else that these proposals are put forward. Council workers did not cause this crisis – they should not be made to pay for it with their hard won terms and conditions.
Sam Morecroft, GMB