BY RYAN TAYLOR
Public services union Unison has shown strong support for Shetland Islands Council’s new single status proposals
Members voted 90 per cent in favour of the plan to offer what they consider to be a fairer pay regime for council staff.
The vote of confidence follows strong support from other unions – GMB, which voted 92 per cent in favour, and TGWU/Unite, which came out 91 per cent in favour.
The move comes after two years of negotiations between council management and union chiefs after a previous pay offer in 2007 was overwhelmingly rejected.
Councillors are now likely to sign off the single status agreement at this week’s full council meeting on Wednesday.
Unison branch chairman Brian Smith said the development was a huge step forward for local authority workers in the isles. Single status would result in fairer wages for female workers in particular, many of whom have been underpaid in the past.
“The council has invested heavily in the new pay scheme with the result that the pay gap between women and men has been narrowed,” Mr Smith said.
“It has been a long slog but we are delighted to have achieved this outcome with the overwhelming support of members.”
“In 2007, the council put forward an appalling offer to staff. It didn’t deliver equality for women and more than 1,000 people were going to lose money. It was thanks to the members of Unison campaigning that this vastly improved offer was issued.
While it is still is regrettable that anyone is going to lose money the scale and the extent of this loss has been greatly reduced and we have a salary protection scheme to assist those facing difficulty. The council are going to give three years of preservation for these people.”
SIC head of organisational development John Smith said the positive reaction showed the work carried out on single status had been well worthwhile.
“We now have a fair agreement with staff right across the council to take forward,” he said.
“I am very satisfied with this outcome, and have been very pleased by the positive approach from all parties in this exercise. I am convinced that council members, staff and management can use it as a model for tackling challenges that Shetland, and the council, will no doubt have in the future.”
Convenor Sandy Cluness added: “I am very pleased that our new proposals have been supported so strongly by staff. I am aware of the enormous work that has gone into this project in the last two years, from the single status team, by unions, by council management and by staff.
“I would like to congratulate everyone involved on their achievement. That hard work, the talking, the listening and the understanding has got us to the very satisfactory point we are at today.”