Last night at Dundee City Council's Policy and Resources Committee a report was presented to the committee entitled 'Managing Workforce Change'. This report was put forward a mere three weeks after it was first raised with the trade unions and it is a thinly veiled attack on the terms and conditions of employees of Dundee City Council.
After listening carefully to the points made by four separate trade union deputations I seconded my colleague Councillor Kevin Keenan in calling for the report to be noted and for there to be meaningful discussions with the trade unions before any such report is brought back to committee.
The council often says that the workforce is the biggest resource that it has and if we truly think that we have a duty to value our workforce. It is unacceptable in my view to refuse to listen to the voice of the workers and to not value their contribution.
To some extent trade union negotiation was taking place in the council chamber last night. Trade unions had been told, and nobody denied that this was true, that there was no point in negotiating with them as they would disagree with the proposals anyway. This is not how to carry out negotiations and shows bad faith from the start. It also begs the question, who sanctioned this policy? Was it only officers or was it the administration? In either case it also begs the question of who is in charge?
We were told last night that this was not about implementing a policy soon it was about opening up opportunities to do things differently. Why the indecent haste to implement the policy then? If it is not about being able to do things soon why not talk about the proposals with the trade unions..
The whole approach strikes me as counterproductive. At the trade union demonstration on Saturday I heard about the willingness of social care workers to take strike action. It seems to me that the council is keen on such a confrontation. This is not in anyone's interests.
If officers and the SNP Administration are so convinced that the proposals that they put forward last night are correct what are they frightened of in discussing them further with the workforce and their trade unions.
Underlying the whole debate is the threat of compulsory redundancies. I am clear that council leaders over a number of years have clearly stated that the policy of the council is a policy of no compulsory redundancies. This was denied last night, but it was instructive that the council's chief legal officer was unable to agree with the Convener that the council did not have a policy of no compulsory redundancies. We were told that there was no intention to use compulsory redundancies but if that is the case what is the necessity to state an openness to that policy now.
Finally, this policy was first shown to the trade unions on 24 January and three weeks later was debated in committee Why the haste? Is this to be the new norm with regard to policy development. Frankly, for a number of issues in the West End the ability to turn around policy is closer to three years than three weeks. Again I say, why the haste?
Dundee City Council should value its workforce and be exemplars in terms of employment practice. Last night Dundee City Council was, sadly, very far from that.