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Unison: Cuts culture could lead to mass exodus of council staff

Local government is undergoing a crisis of stressed and dissatisfied workers due to the effects of public sector cuts, which could lead to a mass exodus of staff, a new report has revealed.

A survey of over 2,200 Unison members working in councils and schools found rising stress levels in almost three quarters of respondents due to low pay and growing workloads, with 62% considering leaving their employer as a result.

The report reveals the increasing tension surrounding public services and has led to a call by Unison for the government to invest in the workforce and protect employees’ pay and conditions.

“While investment in employees is often seen as distinct from investment in services, in reality, the two are intrinsically linked,” said the authors of the report, Steve Glenn, Ken Mulkearn and Louisa Withers.

“Those working in local government are on the frontline of delivering public services, face-to-face and often under difficult circumstances. They keep people safe, housed, educated and cared for. Local government workers tell us that protecting pay and conditions is the most important way to help staff provide those services.”

With over half a million jobs lost in local government since 2010, the results of the survey expose a toxic scenario of workers doing ‘more for less’, with 60% working beyond their contracted hours to handle increased public demand and an increased workload from cost-cutting reorganisations.

However, local government pay and conditions remain worse than anywhere else in the public sector, with nearly 30% of workers paid below ‘the’ real Living Wage as determined by the Living Wage Foundation and around 75% of workers noting a deterioration of benefits such as overtime and sick pay since 2010. Two-fifths also reported receiving no training in the last 12 months.

Unsurprisingly, 62% of administrative and clerical workers have now considered leaving their employer, with over half reporting that    stress at work has affected both their job performance  and personal life and 40% are actively looking to leave their jobs.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognise that this has a knock-on effect upon local services,” the authors commented.     

Despite the threat of redundancy and increasing pressures, Unison noted a willingness in local government workers to adapt to change ‘if it improves services for the public’, as has been the case since its first survey of its members in 2001.

Workers saw job security as the most important issue to be addressed by the union with 98% of respondents indicating it as ‘fairly’ or ‘very important’, followed by equal pay (97%), more pay (96%), a decent pension (93%) and job-related training (91%).

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Jay   05/01/2017 at 12:13

I think that you'll find the main area of concern is the fact that, in real terms, local government wages are worth some 45+% less than they were in 1995. Also a 35% cut in staff does not result in a 35% reduction in the workload.

Dave   05/01/2017 at 12:21

My council is seeking a reduction in the wage bill and is doing so via a review of terms and conditions. Is this the right way to proceed and if not what do you think of a proposition to cut pay by a certain percentage across the board as the fairest way to find the money and save jobs?

Jon   09/01/2017 at 11:04

Austerity (while giving tax cuts to the richest) is a smokescreen to an ideology of cutting.. and why? Make the service terrible and then privatise. So your council tax goes indirectly to the pockets of shareholders. Doesn't provide a better service, worsens conditions, but it makes money for companies and shareholders. (no surprise to see the links between Conservative politicians and supporters and these companies. Even the terminology - 'back office' is designed to denigrate staff.

Eric   10/01/2017 at 12:08

I have been in Local government since August 1990 and have seen the Government pass on more and more responsibility for the delivery of services to be delivered locally, whilst at the same time shaving millions off of Local Government Settlements. This has been part of the reason stress levels are increasing along side cuts in numbers of available staff. Properly resourced Councils with adequate financial resources to pay for additional staff is the only way to tackle to stress 'time bomb' that will one day blow up in our faces.

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