West Dunbartonshire Union Attack Just Clearing Way For More Cuts
Unions have warned that cuts to union facility time by SNP run West Dunbartonshire council are just an attempt to destroy resistance internally and clear the way for further austerity.
The administration has come under fire after it was revealed that the consultations on which they based their recommendations had no verification process. This was confirmed by council officers after the twenty-two responses by supposed councillors were called into question. Only 6% of all staff responded, seriously undermining the survey's legitimacy. No option was provided on the survey for respondents to oppose all cuts - though the council leadership claims that respondents could have rejected all options and left a comment calling on them to do so.
A response from the administration to the Joint Trade Unions obtained by the Red Robin shows that the council relied heavily on the consultation when justifying the cuts to facility time. The fact that it ran contrary to the sentiment expressed by council employees themselves through their trade union structures was not considered.
The Joint Trade Unions claim the survey was unrepresentative, stating:
“The survey was not widely publicised and not available to all residents and staff, the choices were limited and misleading, and the outcomes were manipulated and weighted in favour of the preferred cuts. The Joint Trade Unions believe that the outcomes of the survey are not a true representation of the opinions of WDC’s workforce or its residents.”
A trade union source in West Dunbartonshire claimed that the council leadership had been urged to cut facility time by senior council officers to ease the passage of a ‘punishing austerity budget’ next year. This is supported by the fact that the cuts in facility time may result in a cash loss overall, as workers on higher pay grades are moved into convenor positions.
West Dunbartonshire’s Annual Accounts show that that the council have exceeded their target reserves by almost a £1 million, even with senior employee ‘exit payoffs’ worth over £3.6 million paid out over the period of 2016 to 2017.
The Unite Convenor Charlie McDonald said:
“The Joint Trade Unions are deeply disappointed with this attack on not only services but on trade union democracy. We expect the council to revisit their decision. Council workers had to face seven years of austerity, and now their voices are being weakened by cuts to trade union facility time. These are unprecedented cuts in council services, in an area which already has high deprivation and high unemployment.”
GMB Organiser Hazel Nolan said:
“This move by the SNP shows us that despite trying to pass themselves off as on the side of working people, in reality they’re Tories in social democrat clothing. Don’t be fooled, this is a cynical move to attack the trade unions now, in order to make it easier to attack workers later.”