Union leaders are stepping up their campaign against compulsory redundancies at Birmingham City Council, accusing the Conservative-led authority of deliberately refusing to put in place strategies to avoid sacking workers.
The prospect of 180 staff who run old people’s homes losing their jobs has focused attention on employment protection promises made last year.
As part of a controversial pay and grading restructuring, the council introduced the Employee Bargain. This proposed greater job security in return for agreements on a more flexible workforce.
Staff were told they could continue to work for the council, even if their job disappeared, if they were prepared to retrain and move between departments.
But senior managers admitted this week that redundancies look certain in the adults and communities directorate.
The impact of closing all council-run old people’s homes and transferring a range of adult social services to the independent and voluntary sector has resulted in an unknown percentage of the directorate’s 5,200 employees facing the sack.
Although some have been found alternative employment there are not enough suitable jobs to avoid compulsory redundancies, according to council leaders.
Adults and communities director Peter Hay and the cabinet member, Sue Anderson, have said they expect “excellent and motivated” staff facing redundancy will quickly find jobs in the fast-growing social care independent sector.
But these jobs will not be as well paid as those at the council, nor will they offer comparable pension rights and holiday entitlement, according to the unions.
The public services union Unison claims the council is doing little or nothing to avoid firing staff.
A spokesman said it had asked the council to freeze recruitment to external staff; reduce the number of vacant posts rather than posts with staff in them; make the cuts from natural wastage; and look at filling permanent agency staff posts with permanent staff. But none of this had happened.
Cabinet human resources member Alan Rudge (Con Sutton Vesey) said there needed to be a suitable vacancy for people to move into. “The council never has and never should offer an employee a job for life. This is because circumstances change. The current economic crisis amply demonstrates this.”