Saturday, 24 October 2015

Pay Freeze Hypocrites (26/03/12)



North Lanarkshire Council should hang its head in shame.

The Sunday Herald has exposed a secret pay deal involving big bonus payments to some of the council's most senior  officials - which must have been approved by the Labour Group that runs North Lanarkshire Council (NLC).

The truth has been dragged out of North Lanarkshire Council - and shows that 29 senior staff scooped approximately £184,000 in extra payments - chief executive Gavin Whitefield being the biggest winner with an extra £12,050 on top of his £136,848 salary.

Which must make other council workers hopping mad - because at a time when their pay is being frozen - the chief executive is awarded an 9% pay increase.

How's that for hypocrisy and double standards?

The Sunday Herald goes on to point out that five executive directors - who earn salaries of £113,250 a year - all received more than £9000 - as did the assistant chief executive John Ellerby.

And more than 20 heads of service - on salaries between £77,166 and £85,761 - each took home bonus payments of approximately £4000 to £6000.

Now the council calls these extra payments performance related pay - but they are really just bonuses by another name.

Apparently only a select group of people can access such payments - and I imagine the scheme works in only one direction in the sense that a senior official's core salary is guaranteed - so the chief executive can never earn less than £136,848 a year.

In which case how can it be a genuine performance based scheme - if people's pay can only go up but never down?

The salaries of all council chief executives is determined by collective bargaining - in a similar way to other groups of council employees - via a Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee (SJNC).

On the SJNC for chief executives and chief officials - where COSLA represents the employers' interests and Unison is the main trade union - salaries for chief executives are set as part of a Scotland-wide agreement - and the pay of Glasgow's chief executive always comes out on top.

Because Glasgow is by far the largest council - and by and large that is what any sensible person would expect.

But there is no provision in the Scotland-wide salary agreement - for locally determined performance pay - since that would be against the spirit of national bargaining and would be potentially discriminatory as well - especially if such payments are only available to elite groups of senior staff.

So the whole thing's a disgrace if you ask me.

In many ways it reminds me of the secret 'top-up' payments made by Glasgow City Council - to councillors who acted as Chairs of its arm's length external organisations (such as Cordia) -  or ALEOs as they became known. 

Regular readers will remember that these payments were stopped by the Scottish Government - but only after an independent enquiry criticised Glasgow's top-up payments - as unjustified, unnecessary and a complete waste of taxpayers' money.

So I would be interested to hear how a Labour-run council can justify this kind of behaviour.

Especially at a time when thousands of people in North Lanarkshire Council are still fighting for equal pay. 

How can the senior Labour councillors who signed off on this deal - look a low paid worker in the eye without feeling a huge sense of embarrassment and shame? 

And have you noticed how the tame Labour unions have nothing to say - just as they did over equal pay the unions seem to have lost their voices.

Roll on the local council elections on 3rd May, I say - there is a day of reckoning coming and the sooner it comes the better.

If I had a vote in North Lanarkshire in May - I'd vote for a party which promised to end the scandal of Labour's secret bonus payments - to the council's most senior and well paid staff.