Plans to force many council workers employed by Cambridgeshire County Council to take three days of unpaid leave between Christmas and New Year are unfair and should be reversed, said UNISON today (Thursday, October 11).
The Conservative-controlled local authority told staff last week that they will have to take December 27, 28 and 31 off work.
As a result, anyone earning more than £25,000 a year will lose out on three days pay. Their lower paid colleagues will either have to use their annual leave, or if they have used up all their holiday also face a temporary cut in wages.
A 2014 agreement allows the county council to lay staff off for up to three days in the event of ‘significant financial difficulty’ when no other way can be found to balance the books.
The understanding behind this agreement was that in return councillors would start negotiations with unions about introducing the real living wage, but this has not happened, says UNISON.
UNISON Cambridgeshire County branch secretary Rob Turner said: “This lay-off is an unwanted Christmas present for Cambridgeshire’s hard-working council staff.
“When the emergency agreement was reached four years ago, we had no idea austerity would last so long. To blow off the cobwebs and pull it off the shelf now is a cruel blow to the dedicated staff who work so hard to keep the county running.
“Council bosses want to present this as three days off at Christmas, but in fact it’s a 1.2 per cent pay cut for staff who’ve already suffered years of pay freezes.”
UNISON Eastern regional secretary Chris Jenkinson said: “In Birmingham last week Theresa May proudly declared that austerity was over. She clearly hadn’t talked to Conservative councillors in Cambridgeshire.
“This enforced lay-off is the thin end of the wedge for jobs and services. This year it might just be the 2,000 staff earning more than £25,000 who have to take unpaid leave over the Christmas break – next year it could be everyone.
“Council bosses need to stand up and fight to get ministers to fund local government properly, not pick the pockets of loyal staff in a desperate attempt to keep local services running.”