Full picture on pay and grading review
Dear Editor, It is more in sorrow than in anger that I must correct the entirely false impression given of the council's pay and grading review by Caroline Johnson. I respect the right of all elected trade union officials to represent and protect their members. But their arguments must be based on fact and an appreciation of the full picture.
Let's remember that it's the Conservative/Liberal Democrat administration which has introduced a salary structure designed to remove gender inequality, promote quality services and remove gross examples of overpayment. It's just plain wrong to say this is being introduced on the cheap by "taking money from some employees to give to others".
We've invested £23 million this year alone in our pay bill, an increase of 4.1 per cent. This rises to 5.8 per cent next year. I don't call that "on the cheap".
"Thousands of women lose pay". What would you expect? 75 per cent of our workforce are women. The Single Status Agreement was created to ensure equality of pay, regardless of gender. Therefore, it is not just women who lose but men too. But both men and women will also gain.
Our new salary structure has been criticised as it is unlike that of other councils. This is right. Unfortunately it is traditional structures which have generated inequality and unfairness, encouraged gross examples of overpay and completely failed to provide mechanisms for incentivising staff. Our new structure brings us into the 21st century, mirroring best practice, not just in the private sector but also in other progressive public sector organisations.
The trade unions claim to offer perspective on the pay review but achieve no such thing. Let's look at the examples used:
* Amazingly, we are criticised for raising the pay of cleaners. Not only does their hourly rate rise from £6.07 per hour to £6.18 per hour but for the first time ever they will get automatic salary rises (£6.47 per hour in 2010/11), work a shorter week and get up to 10 days extra holiday.
* Reference to the school meals service is made, and again we are criticised for paying "pitiful" increases despite the fact that again all receive a reduction in hours, incrementation and more leave. But curiously this group is not defined. This one-sided comment would fail to support the erroneous point if it mentioned catering supervisors, who will get an average increase of nearly £5k per annum or cook supervisors who will see their annual income rise by almost £2 per hour;
* And it's a strange perspective to criticise the council for "taking money from some employees to give to others" in the case of care assistants. We would pay care assistants £16,000 per annum if we adopted the trade union approach to place people in the new pay scale. But what they fail to mention is that if we used their approach the overall number of people who lose would more than double from 14 per cent to over 31 per cent. That probably wouldn't go down too well with their members.
* Incorrect comments have been made about refuse collection. New contracts haven't been issued to those employees yet, as we are working constructively with the unions to restructure and redesign jobs, providing both a better service to the public and better paid, more satisfying jobs for staff.
* There also appears to be some confusion about senior managers in Grades 6 and 7. There is no change in Grade 6 as claimed, and the planned change in Grade 7 is to remove an overlap. It advantaged just 0.07 per cent of the staff involved.
* Yes, we engage consultants to help in our transformation process but they are already paying for themselves and helping to redesign jobs to make them better paid and more satisfying.
* We can all quote statistics but I'll be precise. Worst case, 272 people (including 38 employed on less than five hours per week) lose more than £10,000, pro-rata. That's equal to 4.8 per cent of all those that lose and about 0.6 per cent of all staff affected. And all the people will have their salary protected until April 2010.
There is also talk about low pay. The national minimum wage is £5.52 per hour. The minimum hourly rate paid by the council is £6.09. The union inaccuracies have been corrected. I want to move forward.
We now have an effective pay structure. I will continue to work with the trade unions to maximise its benefits for both staff and the people of Birmingham. I will work with staff and the unions to minimise the impact on those staff who lose at the end of the protection period.
That's my aim. I hope that the trade unions will pick it up and continue to work with me.
Coun ALAN RUDGE, By email
Keen to hear from child evacuees
Dear Editor, Were any of your readers evacuated as children during the Second World War? If so, local historian and author John Welshman would be keen to hear from them. He is currently writing a book on the social history of the evacuation of schoolchildren during the Second World War, to be published in September 2009, on the 70th anniversary of the evacuation.
But he needs more stories from people like your readers, who were there, on the ground. If you were evacuated, what do you remember about going to the train station? What was the journey like? What was it like to experience the countryside for the first time? Did you get on with the family you were staying with? Were you evacuated overseas, for example to Canada? And what was it like when you finally returned home?
If you weren't evacuated yourself, do you remember evacuees arriving in your town or village? What were they like? Did you feel they were very different to you and your friends? Did it change the way you thought about life in the cities?
If you would like to tell your story, please write it out (as short or as long as you like) and post it to John, at the Institute for Health Research, Lancaster University, Alexandra Square, Lancaster LA1 7RH. Alternatively, email him on firstname.lastname@example.org
JOHN WELSHMAN, Lancaster
Polish workers waiting in the wings
Dear Editor, As binmen threaten to strike, Birmingham City Council is already giving in.
I wonder why must we bribe them to actually work? Let's face it their job can be done gladly for £6 an hour by Polish workers, and don't forget we're talking about our money which we're paying in rates.
W MIECZYMSKI, Northfield
The original St Trinian's
Dear Editor, I am really please that there is to be a remake of the St Trinian's films, which first ordained our psyche in cartoons by Roland Searle just before the Second World War.
Who can ever forget the original 1950s St Trinian's films, starring Alistair Sim, Joyce Grenfell, Margaret Rutherford, George Cole, Lloyd Lamble, Rosalind Knight and our very own Richard Wattis, who was born in Wednesbury and grew up in Walsall? He was an old boy of Queen Mary's Grammar School and lived on the Birmingham Road, I believe.
The quintessential St Trinian's music was composed by the late, great Sir Malcolm Arnold.
The films were the precursors to the Carry On films and just as funny. The remake of St Trinian's is slightly different in some respects and sees Colin Firth playing Richard's former character, the bureaucratic civil servant in the Department of Education. Whereas Richard played 'Manson Bassett', Colin plays 'Mr Thwaites'.
I also like the fact that Russell Brand plays the character of Flash Harry - a perfect choice indeed. I wonder what the former Flash Harry thinks - the one and only George Cole?
However the remake pans out, and I wish all concerned all the luck in the world, I can't help but feel that the originals will always be the best.
We should be very proud that one of our very own sons was the famous face of those original St Trinian's films and that he came from the Black Country.
IAN PAYNE, Walsall