strike action at the city council has moved a step closer after a pledge that there would be no compulsory redundancies over the lifetime of the current administration was axed.
A motion approving the inclusion of possible mandatory cuts as part of a £141 million savings drive has been rubber-stamped. The decision came after a crowd of at least 200 union and community group members gathered outside the City Chambers yesterday morning to urge councillors to keep the pledge.
Plans are in place to secure around 2000 redundancies by June next year, with enhanced voluntary terms on offer to minimise the need for forced reductions.
City bosses have also revealed that 1285 staff have expressed an interest. Around 600 of those thought are to be eligible and could leave their posts by Hogmanay.
John Stevenson, president of Unison City of Edinburgh branch, said yesterday’s decision had left the council in “uncharted territory” but stressed that any strike ballot was unlikely to take place before compulsory cuts are confirmed and staff notices handed out. He said: “Although they have in effect broken their pledge, there’s still some time for them to take another position.
“For us today, the fact that they have increased the voluntary terms to make them more attractive and extended them through into the organisation review is welcome.”
Peter Lawson, convener of Unite City of Edinburgh Council branch, said: “Chief executive Andrew Kerr has confirmed that some services will have to reduce as a result of forthcoming proposals but we have no information yet on what this might mean.
“We need to deal with usurious pre-devolution debt and we need to find a more sustainable model to finance local government.”
Green councillor Gavin Corbett said: “I voted for the coalition motion because it offered enhanced terms for staff who choose to leave the council and because, crucially, it made clear that any future decision on compulsory redundancies would have to come back to committee, following formal review and exhausting all alternatives.”
City chiefs said the new arrangement had been approved following extensive consultation with staff and unions. Councillor Alasdair Rankin, finance leader, said: “What we are trying to do is balance service provision with a sustainable budget, and also to be a good employer.”