Council to impose change in working conditions

Council staff to lose �1,500 in allowances while senior officers on �100,000 unaffected

A COUNCIL threatened to sack more than 800 staff if they refused to take a cut in London Weighting Allowance.

However a union boss claims senior management at Brent Council earning �60,000 or more will keep theirs after it was integrated with their pay.

The affected staff were given until 12pm on Friday, November 12 to accept the lower Outer London Weighting in place of Inner London Weighting, losing up to �1,500 a year in the process.

Phil O’Reilly, branch secretary for Brent Unison, said: “This has never happened in the 38 years I’ve been here. The way this was handled is a shambles.”

Ms O’Reilly said more than 400 employees had accepted the offer shortly before the deadline despite overwhelmingly voting against it in a ballot over fears of losing their jobs.

Those who accepted can continue to receive their existing benefit until next November or take the equivalent in a lump sum next month.

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Ann John, leader of Brent Council, said: “We are the only outer London borough who still pays it with only a third of staff getting it. In a time of austerity it’s unacceptable that people sitting in the same office get paid different amounts.”

The Council will now push ahead with imposing the changes by terminating contracts of the remaining employees and invite them to reapply for their jobs on reduced terms.

Ms O’Reilly said: “They seem oblivious or don’t care about the anger people feel about these things at a time when there are redundancies and people are losing money.

“There is considerable anxiety amongst Brent Council staff at the moment and that anxiety may turn into anger and industrial action at some point – especially when the Council seem to operate double standards.”

The prospect of imposing conditions on staff came to light when Tracey Connage, assistant director of human resources, wrote in a letter to Phil O’Reilly, dated March 17, ‘if the proposed changes to London allowances are not accepted then the offer will be withdrawn and the changes will be introduced on the basis of normal notice arrangements for termination of contracts and the offer of new contracts’.

Since then numerous meetings between the unions and the new Council administration failed to lead to a compromise.

Ms O’Reilly said: “We had been meeting for months with HR and had two meetings with Ann John and Leslie Jones (lead member for human resources and consultation) who appeared sympathetic but didn’t budge on the issue.

“They said if people don’t agree to a variation of contract they would go down the road of ending every ones’ contract which they could do in a few months time.”

The move only affects people who joined the Council before 1999 when all new employees were put on Outer London Weighting.

A Council spokeswoman said: “This is a sensitive issue for the staff involved and until the review is complete we cannot comment any further.”