Plans for council cuts could lead to city walk-outs

The leader of Portsmouth City Council Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson
The leader of Portsmouth City Council Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson
HMS Illustrious leaves Portsmouth for the last time
Picture: Shaun Roster

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UNIONS have threatened to go on strike and stop taking part in negotiations if Portsmouth City Council carries out plans to cut overtime, benefits and wages for staff.

The council believes it can reduce redundancies by slashing spending on employees.

Its proposals include a possible 1.5 per cent pay cut across the board.

It hopes to discuss the plans, which would be effective in 2012-13, with unions.

But the council’s biggest staff representative bodies have indicated they are unlikely to accept them.

GMB union’s regional officer Kevin Brandstatter said: ‘The council’s effectively trying to blackmail our members. It says a pay cut is the only way to save jobs, but admitted it would save just 50.

‘It would effectively lead to GMB members suffering a decline of more than six per cent, including inflation. This is not acceptable. Our members are shocked and angered by these proposals. It’s an assault on them. If the council makes any move to impose these cuts I will immediately apply to the our central executive for a strike ballot.’

Unison, the other large representative of council staff, took a similar stance.

Its Portsmouth branch secretary, Lindsay Williams, said: ‘We’ll only enter discussions on this with criteria that savings are solely for staff employment. But it’s hard to see us accepting everything they’re considering. They are looking to cut overtime pay, charge even contracted car users, like social workers who must have a car to travel quickly around the city, to park when they come to work, and also considering pay cuts. We expect the council to tell us exactly what it wants to discuss by the end of March. We will take that to our members, and they will decide whether we should enter negotiations.’

The council will this year cut 408 posts, and has asked all staff to consider voluntary redundancy.

But it warns government cuts mean more redundancies will be likely in 2012-13.

It is also considering stopping sick pay for the first day absent from work, and reduced holiday pay.

Council leader Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson said it may push ahead with the plans without negotiation.

He said: ‘These cuts can save jobs. I understand the unions’ position, but it’s not just about jobs. It’s also about services. We don’t want to lay people off, because then we can’t serve the city the way we should. We want unions to work with us, but if they won’t, we may go ahead without them. They have a responsibility to members, but we have a responsibility to the city as a whole.’