Staff members in Salford Council's Regulatory Services carried banners reading 'Our Jobs Protect People' and 'Don't Cut Safety Services' as they protested outside the Civic Centre this morning to oppose wage cuts and job cuts.
The Council's Workforce Panel was meeting to approve wage cuts of up to £6,521 a year and the loss of 14 jobs in Regulatory Services which inspects food businesses for safety and hygiene, and deals with issues like trading standards, pet shop licensing, bad landlords and anti-social behaviour orders.*
If the cuts went ahead, a member of staff told the Salford Star, "We won't be able to deliver what we are currently delivering; we won't be able to safeguard the welfare and safety and residents of Salford..."
Salford City UNISON branch secretary, Steven North, underlined the point... "We're talking about safety critical services that deal with slum landlords, rogue traders, imitation products and environmental health; all these things that impact on the people of Salford generally" he explained "So to make cuts to these services, we think, is potentially very dangerous.
"There are certain legal requirements that the Council needs to meet and we're not sure whether it will be in a position to meet those legal requirements" he added "As you would expect, they're telling us that they can, but we're not convinced."
At the centre of the dispute is a 'restructure' of Regulatory Services, with a cut of £461,000...
"The galling thing is that it hasn't been properly evidenced" said Steve North "They've reorganised the service, bringing in a load of digital technology but what it's actually doing is making it easier for the public to get in touch and increasing the demand on staff, which is counter intuitive when actually cutting jobs.
"The digital solutions that are there to make the staff's lives easier aren't up and running, so we feel that implementation is going to increase demand on these services but not increase the ability to respond to that demand in the same way" he added "Taxi licenses and things can be done digitally; we're not Luddites, we're not opposed to the public having more ability to contact Regulatory Services but these people have to be equipped to be able to deal with it..."
At the Workforce Panel meeting, the officer proposing the 'restructure' explained that it was "a good performing service" and that "staff are well regarded" - but that didn't stop councillors, including so-called 'Corbynistas', Panel Chair, Councillor John Ferguson, Children's Services Lead Member Lisa Stone, Deputy Mayor, John Merry, and Salford City Mayor Paul Dennett voting unanimously to impose the wage and job cuts.
Dennett noted the importance of the service and how Tory cuts were a "driver" for the 'restructure' but added that it was "absolutely the right approach" and that is was "a good piece of work".
UNISON's Steve North concluded that wage cuts to staff in one particular department of Salford Council was "unprecedented"...
"That's a worry and isn't justified" he said "Not only in terms of the fact that this is an authority that should be doing its best to protect staff from wage cuts and redundancies but also from a public point of view. By downgrading what these staff do, you are downgrading their ability to deal with more complex things that keep the public safe.
"We are firmly opposed to wage cuts, we are firmly opposed to compulsory redundancies" he added "and we reserve the right to go into formal dispute and consider anything up to and including industrial action to challenge it."
*For a full background see previous Salford Star article – click here