TAXPAYERS are forking out £1.4 million a year so council staff on the verge of retirement can enjoy almost 100 days of paid time off.
The perk means all employees are able to reduce hours by up to two days a week, while remaining on full pay, during the final six months of their working lives. They are also allowed one day a week off in the six months before that.
City chiefs are now looking to scrap the policy, amid fears recent legal changes abolishing fixed retirement at 65 will mean crushing costs as thousands of staff aged 55 and over take advantage of a shorter week.
New figures for workers who reached their 64th birthday between June and December this year indicate the benefit has already cost the Capital more than £16m since it was introduced in 2003. However, preparations to axe it have been blasted as “reprehensible” by union leaders, who warned the move would disproportionately hit the lowest-paid staff, many of whom work in physically demanding jobs.
They have been granted extra time to consult with members before offering alternatives later in the year.
Tom Connolly, staff side secretary for the joint trade unions, said the existing rules recognised years of hard and often unpaid labour put in by staff who deserve support during the transition to retirement.
He said: “There are many people in the council who have worked well over their contracted hours – if we were to recommend that people stop doing that, the council would probably stop working properly.
“Staff morale in the council is the lowest it has ever been. [Removing the policy] needs to be fundamentally re-evaluated.”
Under current regulations, workers can opt to reduce hours by 40 per cent during the final year of employment, with 20 per cent falling in the first six months and a further 20 per cent in the six months after that.
Leaders at Glasgow and the three other Lothians-based councils, as well as the NHS, Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, told the Evening News there was no comparable policy within their organisations.
Critics today said the perk amounted to “cosy corporatist partnering”. Eben Wilson, director of TaxpayerScotland, said: “If these cosy arrangements are now being curtailed by the council, all credit to them, especially if they have taken on board that taxpayers need both to know how their money is being spent, and that it is being spent wisely.
“It’s time all our local councils came on side with struggling householders who pay for some very generous pensions in the public sector.”
City bosses said it was difficult to justify the policy, given current budgetary pressures.
A council spokesman added: “We are aiming to streamline retirement policies for staff, while making them more flexible and affordable overall.”