Neath Port Talbot Council rules out Living Wage
INTRODUCING a Living Wage has been ruled out by Neath Port Talbot Council.
It says it would cost £750,000 a year when the authority is struggling with a £21 million budget shortfall over the next five years.
“This would require disproportionate cuts elsewhere and put jobs at risk,” warned council chief executive Steve Phillips.
Instead the council will bump up the salaries of staff on the lowest pay grades, currently earning just under £18,000.
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Mr Phillips said there was a commitment to protect jobs as much as possible.
He said the overwhelming majority of staff would prefer revised terms and conditions rather than see jobs put at risk.
The authority has been looking at service cuts, council tax increases, wage cuts and increased fees and charges to meet the budget shortfall.
But unions claimed the pay cuts would only affect the lowest earners, leading to the threat of possible industrial action.
Neath Port Talbot has now come up with a revised workforce agreement.
While lowest-paid staff will get a salary boost, all others are expected to make a financial sacrifice. That involves them only getting half of any national pay award.
“This is not a pay cut as such rather a block on pay progression,” said Mr Phillips. “But I do not attempt to disguise the fact it is a cut in real terms over the life of the agreement.”
Contentious moves to end premium rates of pay, such as for weekend and night working, have been put on hold for now.
But Mr Phillips said this would leave a funding gap of £700,000 and that money would have to be found elsewhere.
In the meantime, he said, the council would continue to crack down on the small minority of staff who regularly abused the sickness absence system.
Mr Phillips said staff engagement events and talks with unions would take place in February.
But, he added, there was now some urgency to reaching an agreement as the council would be setting its budget on February 27.
“There is nothing easy in this,” added Mr Phillips. “If anything, the size of the (budget) gap is growing.”