Edinburgh Muckraker 4

The Edinburgh Muckraker was produced by an independent group in solidarity with council workers, to inform the people of Edinburgh what is really going on behind the lies, mis-information and threats.
This issue is from mid-2010 and deals mostly with the Council's 'equalising' pay scheme. The text is below and the print version attached as PDF.

SELLING WHAT’S LEFT OF THE FAMILY SILVER
The family fortune hasn’t been entirely squandered, but what’s left of the estate is being parcelled-off through the privatisation of the school system, NHS, fire control, the Royal Mail, the MoD. City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) have earmarked catering, cleansing, security, maintenance, property, refuse, cleansing, revenue and benefits, HR, and customer services for privatisation.
Cultural services, transport should and legal services are being buffed up in preparation for outsourcing through multi-million pound ‘strategic partnerships’ or ‘joint ventures’. Have they neither scruples nor sense? "The dafties’d sell their own grannies for a song", the sentiment of this council employee suggests not.
Privatisation leads to worse services, increased costs and huge bills to bring failed services back in-house — the arguments in favour known to be flimsy. So if you can't beat them, cheat! A reasonable way of evaluating options for service provision might be to study the effects of privatisation in ‘comparable’ authorities to Edinburgh, but could England's smallest metropolitan borough, South Tyneside offer a good comparison?
The council seem to think so. But good advice has a price, £31.5 million this time for the consultants’ smoke and mirrors.
The only way that these services can be delivered more cheaply and make a profit, is to attack workers pay and conditions. Plans to move to the next stage of the process involves outsourcing up to 3,500 jobs which will inevitably lead to job losses. The councils case for privatisation lacks credibility and will be wasteful beyond belief. Three out of five of the companies shortlisted for the facilities contract alone, were fined by the Office of Fair Trading in 2009 for ‘illegal bid-rigging’, and fined a total of around £340 million.
The Council spent over £36 million on consultants last year. Cutting agency costs in local government and replacing PFI projects with conventional procurement could save over £34 billion.

Turley’s Future State of Disarray
Director of Services for Communities in Edinburgh, Mark Turley, and those he represents on Edinburgh City Council, thinks that working class people are buttoned up the back.
His Future State Offer pay deal for the city’s refuse collectors is an insult. A refuse collector in Edinburgh is
currently on a basic annual salary of £12,234. An annual bonus takes this up to £18,963, which nobody in their right mind could consider exorbitant by today’s standards. It certainly comes nowhere close to Turley’s six figure salary, hefty bonus and expense account.
Now he expects that same refuse collector to accept a revised pay offer amounting to an annual salary of £17,333, which would mean an annual pay cut of £1,630.
Not only that, under the new proposed terms and conditions, the men will be expected to work public holidays for no extra pay. A binman speaking to us anonymously had this to say: “We've no objection to the lassies getting equality in pay, but they should be bringing their wages up, not putting our wages down.”
Mark Turley thinks he can fool people into believing there’s no alternative under the Single Status pay legislation, introduced by the previous government to ensure that public sector pay for men and women is harmonised. As the worker quoted above says, it is absolutely right that women should be treated the same as men regards pay and conditions. However, pay for women should be equalised up instead of forcing existing pay for men down.
What it amounts to is an attempt to take food out of the mouths of the families of working class people.
Mr Turley thinks he can get away with demonising and smearing our binmen in the local press, slagging them off as lazy and unreasonable. He thinks he can hire thugs as managers and supervisors to intimidate and batter them into submission.
What he forgets that workers in this country have fought and won against the class he represents before.
We can do so again.

30 years of hurt
After ignoring the Equal Pay Act for a generation, Edinburgh is choosing to press down on workers’ wages
For over 30 years Edinburgh City Council has failed to meet its legal obligation under the Equal Pay Act. Rather than the council raising the pay of women to match that of men, it is equalising down by lowering salaries and forcing both men and women onto poorer terms and conditions.
Three-quarters of the workforce are women but there's a part-time gender pay gap in Scotland of 33%, means that women working part-time earn 67p per hour, for every £1 per hour that a man working full-time earns. Many of the workers set to lose thousands of pounds under Modernising Pay are in female dominated and ‘low paid’ posts such a social care workers, home helps, residential care workers, domestics, service support workers, clerical workers, office staff and community care assistants. Others include refuse collectors, street cleaners, drivers, gardeners, library assistants, development officers, and school administrators.
Those most affected are shift workers in 24 hour services who work during nights, weekends and public holidays, who will lose out on their shift allowances, weekend enhancements and bonuses. For instance, a night shift worker receiving time-and-a-half, will only get £1.92 per hour more under new conditions. The Council claims that 80% are winners under Modernising Pay, but they are fiddling the figures by only referring to base pay and not the take home pay – so staff may find their base pay goes up but their take home pay goes down. With inflation running at 4.4%, the Councils offer of a 1% pay increase 1% this year, 0% next year, and 0.5% the year after, this is a huge pay cut. Usually, the government’s Public Sector Pay Policy advocates for single year deals but this multi-year deal is designed so that Scottish Parliament elections in 2011 and local government elections in 2012 are not affected by all those voters who are losing out.
5,000 people have protected their legal rights by not signing up to ‘Modernising Pay’ voluntarily. Now Edinburgh Council will impose ‘Modernising Pay’ by dismissing and re-engaging over 17,000 staff. Unison is holding a consultative ballot that will close at midday on 29 July 2010. If the majority of members vote against the three year pay cut and Edinburgh council refuses to re-negotiate, a further ballot of members will take place on taking industrial action.

Street Cleansing Battle On
A controversial close vote saw UNITE street cleansing accept their offer.
But, a worker writes, refuse collection will not be alone if they reject 'Future State': “Over a third of the union members in street cleansing are in UNISON and we unanimously rejected CEC’s pitiful offer. We intend to immediately put in 'Unfair Dismissal' claims from our 'Current Contracts' when they force us onto the unsocial working hours and make us work them for 3 years with no extra pay - and then take a pay cut that could be thousands if an employee cannot jump through CEC senior management hoops, no sickness, kissing managers ass etc.
'Future State' management figures conveniently ignore these facts and that if workers do not work back shift they will not get the Working Time Payments. Unite Union hierarchy and management are conspiring in the 'Don't accept Future State and you will get privatised' con; but privatisation is politically motivated and Refuse Workers could accept their pitiful 'Future State' offer and still Dawe’s mob privatise them.”

THE BIG CUTS LIE
The 'common sense' that massive cuts must be made fills the papers and flows from from the mouths of Labour and Tory-LibDem politicians, but national debt is not at record levels and their drive for austerity is only a desire for wage cuts and lucrative privatisation.
National debt was far higher during the 1960s, when the UK was in a prolonged period of rising wages and living standards. It is ludicrous of the Tories to claim that Britain in 2010 cannot afford essential services, when a bankrupted and war-torn Britain of 1948 could afford to create the National Health Service.
When a public service is sold off and run for profit the quality of service has to fall, otherwise there would be no money in it for the businesses concerned. And essential services can't be allowed to fail; time and time again, when a privatised service has made profit, it goes into private pockets, when it has made a loss, the government foots the bill.
There is almost no separation between government and business interests. The Tory advisor responsible for their NHS partial privatisation plans works for General Healthcare Group, the largest private sector health company in the UK. They are set to profit from NHS cuts. They call it restructuring, but it is nothing more than embezzlement.
Cuts to services are not necessary or unavoidable. It was an organised movement against unbridled capitalism that built the welfare state, and only such a movement can defend it.

Union Officials — Whose Side Are They On?
Binmen told the Muckraker:
“The UNITE Union haven't been giving us any information. The workers don't know what's happening. We have discovered that officials of the Union have actually been working against us, on the side of the Council...
“Two recent Branch meetings were cancelled, we suspect that was to stop workers asking questions. Workers are very dissatisfied with UNITE, they have been discussing leaving.”
The Muckraker says...
“The official Union structures are now part of the whole exploiting system, the top Union bosses don't want to rock the boat. Workers need to control their own organisations.”

“Paul the Binman” speaks
Victimised for speaking out on the bin dispute, he writes from the sharp end for the Muckraker
At last the truth is out and the issue of “single status” is open to public scrutiny. The council have stopped hiding behind the ridicules notion that this dispute has been about lazy workshy greedy bin men and their mates in the cleansing departments.
This is the lie that has been trotted out time and time again to justify the heavy handed and in some cases, clear bullying approach to industrial negotiations this council has pursued in its attempt to crush the unions and slash its budgets to appease its political masters.
The executive have chosen to do this by destroying the quality of life of its lowest paid staff and their families. Can you imagine what would have happened if they had introduced the same percentage of cuts to its senior managers and executives wages? Surely, in the search of fairness then these cuts should have been council wide, Aye right...
This council and its executive has shown the utter contempt it has for its own workforce. Why else would it say, we value our staff so much that we are going to increase their workload and increase their hours while slashing the wages. But hey, they're only manual grades and as such are overpaid anyway.
The contracts the staff are being forced to sign is the original offer, this is still a reduction of thousands. The council claim future state will off set these losses. A loss is still a loss. The grade enhancements they are proposing are only possible at the end of the financial year if the council has money in the kitty. Imagine you expecting someone to do work for you on the off chance that you can afford to pay them at the end of the job.
The government claim these cuts are required, they claim the Austerity measures are needed, they claim we are all to blame, we all lived beyond our means. Sorry, I never spent billions I never had nor did anyone else I know.
Why is it the poorest of in our society have to pay for the lifestyles of the rich and infamous? How can it be right that community centres have to close? Schools are being forced to close, pupils are being moved yet new teachers are being forced to move South to find jobs.
Why is it ministers here in Scotland can speak in defence of jobs in the private sector yet stay silent on the loss of thousands of jobs in the public sector?
How can we speak about the mismanagement of the banking sector yet ignore the mismanagement of our councils?
Why is it right for our councils to pay the private sector for the delivery of our public services yet wrong to pay the public sector for those same services?
Why is it wrong to use the public purse to provide jobs to provide the public services yet right to put thousands of public sector workers out of work and use tax money to keep them out of work?
Good job I'm just a lowly manual worker who doesn't understand politics. I guess we have to find the money for the Trams somehow...

Organised Support Workers Fight & Win
Since the council manual workers’ long fight to protect their wages began, many other campaigns to protect workers and services have taken on the City's Council. One of these struggles showed that ordinary workers, service-users and activists could take on the Council – and win!
As vital care and support services for people with disabilities were set to be sold off to low cost private companies a grassroots campaign quickly developed to stand in the LibDem / SNP administration’s way. These services are provided by voluntary sector organisations that were forced to compete with each other for contracts and that traditionally have very low union membership. Because of this the struggle was started not by care organisations or trade unions but by ordinary parents and carers, advocacy and disability rights groups and self organised workers.
One of these groups, Edinburgh Support Workers’ Action Network (SWAN), was quickly set up by a small group of support workers and succeeded in bringing together staff from several service providers to organise against the Council’s disastrous plans.
The campaign finally saw the tender scrapped in February of this year ensuring 800 people kept their services and protecting 1000s of jobs. Although SWAN actively promote unions, seeing them as vital to protecting jobs and services, their example also shows that we cannot always wait for someone else to to take up our fight.

Council’s Thievery
Not happy with forcing paycuts, they’re picking pockets
Some refuse collectors took the Council to tribunals for refusing to pay them wages due, under so-called “partial performance” deductions. The Council thieves docked workers' wages because they were banning overtime (which is not compulsory) and because they were following the Council Health and Safety rules.
In most cases the Council have belatedly admitted they were wrong and paid up. But some cases are still disputed, and as one worker told the Muckraker:
“For me it was not just about the money, it was about all the bullying and intimidation. It was a lot of stress.”
Some workers got together to refuse to sign management forms promising they would work “normally”, asking the supervisor to get management to sign a form stating that they are asking the workers to work against health and safety rules. No more was said to them about signing the form. A good tactic to remember!

Management Bullies — We Are Above You
A supervisor aggressively jabbed his finger into the chest of a worker at Russell Road refuse collectors depot — but the management sacked the worker! As we write the worker was appealing the decision. The supervisor went for the worker, a driver, after the worker had pulled him up about the supervisor's disgraceful behaviour while crossing the picket line at the Craigmillar depot — the supervisor made “loadsa money” gestures, then pointed at the worker on the picket and made a show of writing his name in his notebook, indicating he was going to report him.
This same supervisor has got 3 workers at Russell Road suspended by the management bullies, headed by Acting Operations Manager A. Holman.

Council Bullies — We Are Above the Law
A cleansing department worker went to the Council Human Resources department last autumn to lodge a grievance against his managers for intimidation, victimisation and harassment.
But he was told Mr Barr, Head of HR, had ruled that workers could not lodge grievances while the dispute continued. Instead the worker would have to raise the issue with the very people he was complaining about!
Does this mean that during a dispute Management are allowed to bully, intimidate and harass workers? How can the Council suspend the operation of their own official grievance procedure?

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We've no objection to the lassies getting equality in pay, but they should be bringing their wages up, not putting our wages down.
anonymous binman