Staff at Bath & North East Somerset Council are being offered ‘voluntary options’, including reduced hours, as the local authority looks to save £4 million to help address the financial shortfall it is facing.
The GMB Union, who represent workers at Bath and North East Somerset Council, say they have been approached by senior management ‘seeking help’ in dealing with the financial challenges.
B&NES Council has already received £10 million from the Government to help meet COVID-19 costs, but that will still leave it with a £40 million shortfall.
The union have asked the council to identify how this has occurred, and over what period of time, in order to understand the financial situation.
The council have announced that they are seeking to make a £4 million cut from their salary budget.
An initial proposal put forward by the council is for staff to voluntarily take up offers such as flexible working patterns, reduced hours, career breaks and the opportunity to purchase additional holiday entitlement.
The GMB Union has hit out at the proposals, which they feel are misusing ‘equality’ rights won by unions to support workers, as a tool for slashing the wage bill which would lead to reduced earnings, affecting pensions and potentially forcing people into second jobs.
The union has also written to the two sitting MP’s for the region, Wera Hobhouse MP and Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, but are as yet to receive a formal response.
Tim Northover, GMB Organiser said: “Our members in BANES deserve better than this. They are not to blame for any of the mess that the Council find itself in and should not be expected to pay the price for the councils’ financial shortfalls.
“Flexible working patterns rights were won to promote equality and provide opportunities, not a tool for the employer to cut the wage bill once they’ve overspent.
“We have been told that austerity is over but it certainly doesn’t feel that way.
“GMB Union will be standing up for our members. It’s time for councillors to stand up for their workforce, and start focusing their efforts on securing a fairer funding deal from Westminster.”
In a statement, Will Godfrey, Bath & North East Somerset Council chief executive, said: “Our staff have risen to the difficult and unexpected challenge of keeping services running and finding new ways of working during this Covid-19 pandemic and I want to thank them all.
“The unprecedented situation we now face however, is a huge pressure on the council’s budget due to Covid-19.
“As a result all staff are being asked to consider ways in which they can help the council meet this financial challenge.
“While the council has received £10m from UK Govt to help meet Covid-19 costs it still means it is facing a £40m deficit due to loss of income.
“This means the council is looking at ways to reduce costs and is asking staff to consider a range of voluntary options such as taking either a temporary or permanent reduction in hours, considering different working patterns, buying leave, flexible retirement or using the parental leave scheme, to help it achieve savings and to avoid the need for redundancies.
“We are planning face-to-face meetings, over Zoom with Trade Union colleagues to further discuss this.”