Wednesday 8 May 2013

Caroline Lucas to join striking Brighton Council workers' picket line following proposed pay cut

The minority Green Council in Brighton recently handed over negotiations for the 'modernisation' of pay and allowances to officers of the council.

As a result about 10% of council staff  have received a settlement offer which means that while some gain, others will lose pay. City Clean workers are to strike against the pay cut and today Caroline Lucas, MP promised to join them on the picket line. The Brighton and Hove Green Party have voted to condemn the offer and expressed dismay at the decision to hand negotiations to officers.

This is Caroline's statement:
Yesterday around 10% of Brighton and Hove council staff received a settlement offer as part of a process designed to ‘modernise’ pay and allowances.

Since the negotiations began, I have made my opposition to any cuts in take home pay very clear.
I am therefore disappointed that, whilst some will gain from this process, a number will face a reduction in the money they have to live off each week.

This is unacceptable. I know from the many constituents who have written to me about this issue that they agree.

So too does the Brighton and Hove Green Party, whose members voted at a meeting last night to  condemn the offer and also expressed dismay that responsibility for the pay negotiations was handed to council officers.

With the support of the local Green Party, I have pledged to campaign against the offer made to workers, in accordance with the local and national party's democratically agreed anti-cuts and anti- austerity policies.
I plan to join striking City Clean workers and continue to stand up for workplace rights – as I promised to do when I was elected and have consistently prioritised in Parliament.
Greens should never be in the position of reducing workers' pay and to do so at a time of austerity with rising food and energy costs and benefit cuts is totally indefensible. The Green group on the council must act quickly to right this wrong.

There may well be a case to modernise pay structures which are often out-dated in local government. In one of the schools I worked in the schoolkeeper was still getting an allowance for humping scales of coal in the boiler house when the boilers were gas fired!  More seriously there are often gender inequalities involved and disparities between different groups of workers which need to be smoothed out. Modernisation may involve a narrowing in  historical differentials but in such cases there is usually short-term protection and a longer term tapering of increases so that no one ends up with less cash in their pocket this week than they were earning last week.

I understand that Brighton Council's overall wage bill is actually go up slightly as traditionally low paid workers get increases with the payment of the living wage and additional allowances and the group of workers affected by the pay cut is comparatively small.  It should be possible to sort something out quickly.

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