Councillor urges staff to take pay cut or working fewer hours to help minimise job losses

SIC staff should be encouraged to take a cut in pay or working hours to minimise the number of jobs the local authority has to shed, the vice-chairman of a council committee has suggested.

Allison Duncan has insisted for a number of years that significant job cuts will be unavoidable as the council grapples with massive public spending cuts. But speaking during an audit and standards committee meeting at Lerwick Town Hall this morning, he said changes to working hours must be looked at to “save as many jobs as we can”.

The SIC is trying to cut £27 million a year – roughly a fifth of its annual spending – over a three-year period. Council management are continuing to hold regular talks with unions on the least harmful way of saving up to £14 million in staffing costs, which could mean removing as many as 400 employees from its wage bill.

Council talks with trade unions remain at an early stage, but head of organisational development John Smith told councillors around 50 ideas were bouncing around following the launch of a “ways to save” scheme where staff have been asked to come up with ideas for efficiencies.

Mr Duncan believes one of the more popular suggestions to avert job losses is for some staff to give up a week and a half of pay each year. Alternatively, every member of staff could work one hour less a week, or continue to work the same hours for one hour less pay, with savings going some way to resolving the problem.

“Nobody wants to see reductions in staff,” he said. “I don’t want to see families with mortgages and children having to go to Job Centre Plus.”

But one council source said cutting pay and hours for existing staff, many of whom are already facing pay freezes and increased pension contributions, was ever only going to lead to a “pretty moderate” saving. The bulk would have to come from cutting overall staff numbers by not filling vacancies.

Responding to Mr Duncan’s comments, Unison branch chairman Brian Smith told The Shetland Times that there was never going to be “one big thing” which could resolve the issue. He said unions had been engaged in a “complex series of discussions” with the SIC in recent months.

“We’re not just discussing ideas for saving huge amounts of money in a one-er,” Mr Smith said, “but also discussing things like: how does the council use its reserves; is the amount of money that the council says it needs to save money that could be saved without serious damage? All these things are exceptionally complex and there’s never going to be a way of dealing with this question by one big thing.”

Meanwhile, during today’s meeting North Isles councillor Laura Baisley called for more to be done to support the dispersal of local authority jobs outwith Lerwick. She said one staff member had wanted to do their work from home but had come up against “managerial objections”.

Mrs Baisley suggested an impartial adjudicator could be brought in for such scenarios because more needed to be done to “encourage and support” people to work away from the town.

She believes that a “layer of middle management” appeared resistant to letting people work away from central offices, and accepted it was “a big change for people to make in their management style”.

She also called for councillors’ and officials’ attendance at meetings outside of Shetland to be “rigorously evaluated” to ensure the time and travel had been worthwhile. “We need to be transparent about what product has come out of it,” Mrs Baisley said.


Add Your Comment
  • Harry Dent

    • August 12th, 2011 14:00

    When bankers who precipitated the crisis are still grabbing many millions in salaries and bonuses, and when the government can waste billions on crazy foreign wars, those of us earning an infinitessimal fraction of those amounts are entitled to feel aggrieved about being expected to take pay cuts to pay for a crisis not of our making.

    We are clearly not all in this together, so it’s disappointing to see our elected representatives siding with big business against their constituents.

  • Kevin t Robertson

    • August 13th, 2011 16:22

    I find it very strange that councillor Duncan can make this ridiculous suggestion – Mr Duncan believes one of the more popular suggestions to avert job losses is for some staff to give up a week and a half of pay each year. Alternatively, every member of staff could work one hour less a week, or continue to work the same hours for one hour less pay, with savings going some way to resolving the problem.

    If i remember right i also think this goes against the Single Status agreement that the councillors helped introduce into the council.

    I think i would be far more viable for Shetland if the councillors such as Duncan would forfeit there pay/expenses they claim from the Shetland public. Because it’s there to see they are the ones who are dithering over decisions and also voting through some of the most ridiculous projects and funding at times when they are trying to assure everyone they are trying to make savings. And with there bickering in the chambers it would be interesting to see what that has cost the Shetland public since the beginning of the Clark saga. I would guess enough to cover the costs of working less hours or working for free.

    They suggest to make the work force work fewer hours or work for free on top of a pay freeze i think it just goes to show the poor quality of people that we have trying to run Shetland. Lets hope for the sake of the Shetland people we get some new faces around the table in the council chambers before they destroy whats left for us and as they keep saying the future generations.

    K T Robertson

  • Sam Thomson

    • August 16th, 2011 18:42

    Council shouldn’t be buying houses worth 200 thousand pounds for consultants and spending money on other stupid projects.
    That might get them the savings they want.

  • I Anderson

    • August 17th, 2011 15:56

    One way the SIC could save money is with their mail! I received a letter last week addressed to me c/o the Symbister hall. (I am on the committee) It was an A3 hard-backed envelope (not cheap) with postage of £1.48 on it and inside was a notice, approx 12″ X 8″ asking for people in Shetland to foster children. This notice could easily have been folded twice and would have fitted, no bother in a C5 envelope which then could have taken a 2nd class stamp! I’m not sure how many hours some poor worker would have taken to fill all these envelopes but I guess it would have been a few and at a good enough rate. This could have been emailed to me as they have my email address from the community directory, and I would have printed it for nothing. I expect. Mind you if I wanted to be as silly as the SIC I could have asked for ‘hours’ to erect this notice and mileage to go to the hall to do so, but I didn’t. One of my neighbours got a letter too the week before, this time with a stamped-addressed envelope for his reply and it was asking him to tick a little box to say if he was Scottish or Ethnic?? Being the owner of the Symbister Post Office, I see the vast amount of paper that comes through the post and it is ridiculous.


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