Iron Angle: An offer they can’t refuse at the city council
The supreme confidence, tinged with more than a touch of arrogance, of those running Birmingham City Council never fails to amaze.
Not so much the politicians, most of whom know very little about what is really going on, but the senior officers, who have convinced themselves that nothing is so bad that it cannot be spun to their advantage.
Let us consider the issuing of Section 188 notices informing almost 26,000 council employees that their terms and conditions are to be changed; almost certainly they will lose money and a great many will lose their jobs.
Naturally, you would have to be fairly determined to wade through the legal gobbledegook contained in an email sent to staff by council chief executive Stephen Hughes with a catchy title: Birmingham Contract – Trade Union Consultation.
For the very few that did not routinely hit the delete button, the following facts would have become clear.
It is proposed, in order to help identify £330 million in Government-imposed spending cuts, that all existing contracts of employment will be ripped up, sending into oblivion decades of cosy pay and expenses deals between management and unions.
No more free parking spaces, no more inflated mileage allowances, no more fixed job descriptions designed to reinforce demarcation agreements.
It’s all being dressed up as consultation, of course, but it is obvious that staff will be made an offer they cannot refuse, or if they do refuse they will be out of a job.
The most important part of the notice reads: “If employees do not accept any such revised contract of employment their employment with Birmingham City Council would terminate ... subject to three months’ notice. An entitlement to a redundancy payment will not arise in these circumstances.”
And, to show that Mr Hughes feels the hurt, he adds: “The council has decided to issue the notice at this time, and in this way, so as to be as transparent as possible and to ensure effective and meaningful consultation. It is our intention to try to reduce the impact of potential changes within the workplace and we hope that sharing the proposals will assist everyone involved.”
To say that this came as a bombshell is something of an understatement. Two days after despatching the email Mr Hughes turned up at the main scrutiny committee to talk about the spending cuts. Did he mention the Section 188 notices? Did he heck.
Naturally, Birmingham’s mostly compliant scrutiny councillors knew absolutely nothing about the biggest and boldest staff restructuring and redundancy programme in the council’s history, and Mr Hughes certainly did not tip them off.