Union in crisis talks over council pay cuts

PAY CUT FIGHT ... Unison branch secretary Merv Butler.

PAY CUT FIGHT ... Unison branch secretary Merv Butler.

CRUNCH talks will be held next week over controversial plans to slash the pay of South Tyneside Council staff who support vulnerable borough children by up to £12,000 a year.

Concern has been expressed over the future of 28 members of staff who support schools and young people with issues to do with attendance, careers advice and youth support.

Under a proposed restructuring, currently going through a period of consultation, three staff would move to reduced “term-time only” contracts which would result in their existing £31,000-a-year salary being reduced to £19,000. A further 17 staff would be put on a lower pay grade – and as a result face salary cuts of £8,000.

The remaining eight would be unaffected.

On Monday representatives of the Unison trade union are to meet Karen Pemberton, the council’s strategic lead for schools organisation and children’s centres, who is leading the restructuring process.

The union is looking to minimise the impact of the proposals on their members.

Merv Butler, branch secretary at Unison South Tyneside, said: “We are obviously resisting this and have a revised proposal.

“Clearly, these proposals are budget-driven and are part of the council’s overall budget cuts programme.

“They are not looking at redundancies which, in one way, is a good thing, but this is a significant loss of pay.

“Our members are very unhappy and we are in negotiations to mitigate that.”

Pay protection is in place which would, in effect, protect workers’ current pay levels for nine months.

But the union does not believe that goes far enough.

Coun George Elsom, the leader of the opposition on South Tyneside Council, criticised the pay proposals this week, labelling them “immoral”.

A council spokesman said: “We are consulting with the trades unions and with the staff concerned on proposals around a restructure within Services for Young People to reflect the changing demand for these services.

“We always give careful consideration to the roles and responsibilities of each post when establishing appropriate pay and grading.”

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