Through working closely with the trade unions and following effective vacancy monitoring and redeployment policies, The Highland Council has been able to avoid making any grounds maintenance staff redundant following the outsourcing of routine grass cutting work to a private contractor.
When the Council decided to invite the private sector to compete for grass cutting contracts last year, it was estimated that 22 staff would transfer to the successful bidder under the TUPE Regulations, and that a further 33 posts would be at risk of redundancy.
The outcome - reported to a joint meeting of the Council and the trade unions - is that only one member of staff will transfer to the new contractor, and there will be no compulsory redundancies, with the vast majority of staff being redeployed to other posts in the Council.
In anticipation of the likely impacts on staffing, from this and other savings measures, the Council introduced a recruitment freeze last year to hold posts which can be used for the redeployment of staff at risk from redundancy.
Following a procurement exercise, the Council took the decision to award the contract for routine grass cutting to an external contractor (ISS) at its meeting on 16 December 2010.
This decision to award the contract to ISS provided a saving of £1.36 million over the life of the 3 year contract, and the areas affected are Mid and West Ross; Inverness; Nairn; Badenoch & Strathspey; Lochaber and Skye.
Councillor John Laing, Chairman of Transport Environmental and Community Services, said: “I am delighted that the staffing issues have been resolved and that we have still achieved a significant saving with no reduction in service to the public.”
Councillor Carolyn Wilson, Chairman of the Council’s Resources Committee, said that the decision to introduce a recruitment freeze has been very effective and has provided opportunities to redeploy staff at risk of redundancy.
She said: “This demonstrates that planning ahead and working with the trade unions is the best way to minimise the impact on our staff. I thank the staff and the trade unions for the working so closely throughout this process, and I can give a commitment that the Council will continue to use this approach to minimise the impact on other Council staff who may find themselves at risk of redundancy.”
Bruce Crabtree of the GMB Trade Union said: “Everyone has worked very hard to come to this successful conclusion. The sentiments expressed by Council Elected Members bode well for the future and we look forward to working productively to meet future challenges.”