Council strike fears as unions say jobs axed in 6 months

Edinburgh City Council's HQ in East Market Street. Picture: Scott Louden
Edinburgh City Council's HQ in East Market Street. Picture: Scott Louden
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UNIONS have warned that the city council is planning to accelerate the timescale for swingeing job cuts from two years to just six months.

Leaders at Unison’s City of Edinburgh branch said council chiefs wanted to secure around 2000 redundancies by the start of April next year.

They said this would bring the Capital closer to all-out strike action as it increased the likelihood of compulsory redundancies.

And they have accused senior officers of trying to “box” councillors into reversing their “no compulsory redundancies” policy.

Council chiefs have denied that they are seeking to rush ahead – stressing that they were sticking to their published timetable of cutting the 2000 jobs by April 2017.

The union warning comes as the city council prepares to undergo a restructuring which would help secure savings worth £141 million over the next four years.

John Stevenson, president of Unison City of Edinburgh branch, which counts more than 9000 council workers among its members, said: “We’re talking to a range of politicians and officials [but] we are pessimistic.

“We do not know why the officials appear to be boxing the politicians in the direction of compulsory redundancies, because we don’t think the figures as they stand make that necessary.

“We are moving closer to compulsory redundancies and possible strike action. We’re going to end up with more reductions than we need because you’re going to lose two years of natural wastage and turnover.

“We don’t know where the redundancies will be coming from and we don’t know where they need to lose people because they don’t have the transformational structures in place yet.”

Councillors last month voted against plans to privatise maintenance of public buildings, including schools and libraries, despite warnings that such a move would require compulsory cuts.

Senior figures at Unite said that it was important to maintain a “collaborative” relationship.

The union’s deputy Scottish secretary, Mary Alexander, said: “We will be submitting a number of alternative proposals for the consideration of council officials and 
councillors, including an amnesty on the repayment of historical loans from the Public Works Loan Board which date back to the early 1990s.”

A council spokeswoman said: “The council has a significant financial challenge and as a result we need to change the way we work to build sustainable services for the people of Edinburgh within a reduced level of funding.

“We know that uncertainty can be unsettling for staff and we hope that by reducing the length of our transformation programme we can help staff better understand what it means for them.”