The Chairman of The Highland Council’s Resources Committee, Councillor Carolyn Wilson, has criticised Unison for a recent communication with its Highland members on early retirement and voluntary severance, which she described as “alarmist and insensitive”.
Councillor Wilson has written to Unison branch secretary, Liz Mackay, to express her dismay and disappointment at the tone of the letter.
Councillor Wilson took exception to Ms Mackay alleging that Council proposals on early retirement and voluntary redundancy were “an insulting and cynical move by the Council”. She also challenged the claim made later in the letter that the Council is about to make “mass redundancies and job cuts”.
Councillor Wilson said: “I am particularly concerned at the tone of the letter. To suggest to Unison members that our decision is purely a money saving measure “ahead of known mass redundancies and job cuts” is not only inaccurate but is insensitive and alarmist.
“I would have expected a more responsible response from the trade union, given our commitment to consult and work closely with them on this important issue as well as many other important staffing issues.
“As a result of receiving the letter, a number of Council staff have approached me expressing concern about the future of their jobs. Creating uncertainty amongst staff is not at all helpful at this time, especially as we are in the midst of a public consultation on our budget and decisions will not be taken until the autumn of this year at the earliest.
“The Council has real challenges ahead in meeting expected public spending reductions. However, the Council has a very sound record of managing change and I have no doubt we will deal with future challenges in the same effective way as we have done in the past. Consulting with staff and trade unions will be an important part of the process. We have tried hard to make sure union representatives are briefed regularly and have scheduled extra meetings to ensure they have the latest and most up to date information.”
At its meeting on 14 April, the Resources Committee approved amendments to the Council’s policy in relation to compensation payments, which are payable to employees, who are made redundant (on a voluntary or compulsory basis) or who are retired in the interests of the efficiency of the service. The policy was reviewed to take account of the introduction of new pension and age regulations. The revised scheme seeks to achieve the correct balance between affordability, on the one hand and on the other, ensuring that the scheme is sufficiently attractive to employees in order that voluntary severance can be encouraged, wherever possible, should redundancies be required.
Councillor Wilson noted that Unison members have been asked to write to Highland Councillors ahead of the next Council meeting on Thursday 13 May urging them to overturn the decision taken by the Resources Committee on 14 April.
Councillor Wilson said the Resources Committee had delegated powers to approve the changes to the scheme. As no notice of amendment was received, this was therefore the decision of The Highland Council.