So the council is inviting staff to make applications for voluntary redundancy and naturally many members have been making enquiries about what it means for them.
This latest initiative is designed to ‘soften the blow’ of the cuts on staff but the reality is that voluntary redundancy still means job losses and a reduction in the size of the authority. The services which those opting to take voluntary redundancy provided will be reduced and in some cases lost altogether and the net result of this is that those in most need will lose out.
The council is aiming to find 200 volunteers through this scheme and ultimately to reduce the entire workforce by 25% over the next four years. That means a loss of 800 jobs!
Where are all those made redundant going to work once they collect their redundancy payment? At the moment Waltham Forest, Hackney, Camden, Islington, Tower Hamlets, Barnet and Newham Council’s combined are offering a total of 50 vacancies whilst at the same time laying off staff themselves, so not in Local Government. Perhaps in the private sector then? Well if last weeks Gazette is anything to go by there’s not much about there either unless you’re prepared to take a massive cut in pay and work in MacDonalds.
Another thing worth considering is the cost to the authority in paying all this redundancy money to staff. In all likelihood it is the staff with the longest service who can access their pension that will be first to take the offer up and so this will cost more than any compulsory scheme is likely to.
Finally Hackney Unison members should remember that the branch voted to take industrial action to defend jobs and services so to cave in at the first opportunity seems a bit of a cop-out.
Staff will have read the information provided on Friday about this scheme so we don’t want to go over ground which has already been covered but judging by the enquiries we have been getting the following information may be useful.
Firstly the scheme is no more beneficial than compulsory redundancy and in many ways it could be argued that actually it leaves members worse off.
For example staff should be careful and check any insurance policies they may have on their mortgage as opting for voluntary redundancy may invalidate them. As volunteers will be making themselves redundant there could be implications for any benefits entitlements or income support they are receiving or are likely to receive.
In fact in our view as the scheme is not enhanced there is little benefit in anyone taking it unless they were planning to retire early.
If you are made compulsorily redundant and if the redundancies are going to be on this scale it could serve staff better to wait and take their chances. Firstly any mass compulsory redundancies are not likely to take effect for several months from now due to consultation processes and the statutory duties placed on all employers proposing redundancies meaning that staff will build up extra service and also that they may have a birthday coming soon which could affect their entitlement.
Secondly those made redundant compulsorily will not risk breaching the terms of any mortgage insurance and are able to claim benefits immediately after being laid off.
The council would have to consult staff collectively on such large-scale job losses which would give us all an opportunity to propose alternatives to the cutbacks and take industrial action if we wanted.
In fact when we weigh up the pros and cons of such a scheme then we believe it is clear that what is being offered is not very good unless you were planning to leave the authority over the next few months anyway.
For further information and FAQs please click on this link: Voluntary Redundancy FAQs