Birmingham City Council (BCC) – a Labour-run council in name only – has a record of abominable treatment of its low-paid workers.
Recently the council leader resigned after a series of SKWAWKBOX exclusives revealed the fully-authorised deal he had done with the Unite union, under the auspices of Acas, on behalf of refuse collectors who had been threatened with a huge pay-cut. The council’s response to the revelation that they had reneged on a formal deal was, shamefully, to issue unlawful redundancy notices to well over a hundred ‘leading hand’ workers vital to the safe operation of refuse lorries.
Then, when judges dismissed their legal argument, the council wrote a threatening letter to the workers saying that if it succeeds in overturning the resulting injunction, the time spent in court would be deducted from their redundancy notice period.
A new scandal
The latest scandal to hit the council involved a cynical assault on the very lowest-paid of its workers: BCC is exploiting a living-wage pledge to cut the income of its lowest-paid staff.
Because of BCC’s current freeze on incremental pay progression, it agreed to pay a ‘non-consolidated’ lump sum (NLS) to its staff in lieu of any increment. This year, that NLS was a minimum of £377 – more for higher grades, with some receiving a thousand pounds or more.
The official salary of the council’s lowest-paid workers is £15,807.00 – below the living wage. To fulfil the council’s living-wage pledge, it pays those staff a ‘living-wage supplement’ that brings their salary to the recognised living wage of £16,082 a year.
The NLS works by calculating the difference between a worker’s current pay and what the council terms the next ‘spinal point’. For the lowest workers, the next spinal point is £16,144.
To claw back cash, the council has been deducting the living-wage supplement from the NLS, or in numeric terms: deducting 16,082 from 16,144.
This means that BCC’s lowest-paid employees – who earn a paltry wage of around £8.30 an hour – receive only £61 NLS in total – while higher-paid employees who don’t need a living-wage supplement receive a minimum of £377.
The council has used this weasel-mathematics to claim that it is fulfilling both its obligation to pay the living wage and to pay the non-consolidated lump-sum. The move affects thousands of employees.
Howard Beckett, Unite’s acting regional lead, told the SKWAWKBOX:
Yet again we have a supposedly-Labour council targeting the poorest among its employees for the harshest treatment. This action against its lowest-paid employees brings further shame on a council that has already disgraced itself by going back on a firm deal and threatening its employees. Some of the people involved in these decisions are making huge salaries and are showing complete contempt for the realities faced by my members and other employees on low incomes.
The SKWAWKBOX has also obtained paperwork showing the salary bands of senior BCC staff – some of whom are imposing draconian pay-cuts on low-paid colleagues while they face no pay-cuts themselves – in fact, according to BCC’s 2017/18 ‘Pay Policy Statement‘, they received an increase on 1 April this year. They make bleak reading.
Stella Manzie, the interim chief executive receives c. £180,000. Jacqueline Kennedy, Corporate Director, Place receives £140,000. BCC’s Human Resources director receives £100,000 while assistant directors in the finance functions receive £85,000.
None of them need to worry about a few hundred pounds in non-consolidated bonuses. To thousands of the council’s employees, a few hundred pounds is an enormous amount.
Or it would be, if they were not being deprived of it.
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