Council job cuts on hold due to coronavirus as unions hit out

City chiefs were expected to agree to a voluntary redundancy scheme at a meeting on Thursday.

Planned job cuts at Glasgow City Council have been put on hold due to the coronavirus outbreak – with unions saying they shouldn’t go ahead at all.

City chiefs were expected to agree to a voluntary redundancy scheme at a meeting on Thursday but the paper was pulled as the timetable for the roll-out is no longer achievable as a result of the pandemic.

The council says it needs to cut its workforce to reduce the wage bill as it tries to cope with tightening budgets and the ongoing costs of the equal pay settlement.

It is also trying to introduce a new pay and grading structure to address inequalities.

The scheme was set to launch with a “trawl for registrations of interest” to be received by the end of June this year.

However, a council spokesman said: “It is clear that, given current events, the anticipated timetable for the full implementation of a scheme would not be achievable.

“Officers will revise the paper and bring it to a future meeting of the City Administration Committee.”

But unions have criticised the plans, hitting out at a council report by Carole Forrest, the authority’s director of governance.

In a joint statement, Unison, GMB, Unite and the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) said: “The trade unions are totally against cutting jobs – and thus council services – in order to deliver equality in our city.

“To lament as ‘unavoidable’ the need to pay low paid women properly as Ms Forrest does demonstrates a very skewed view of the world.

“In addition, to raise all this at a time when the workforce and their trade unions are trying to ensure vital services – many of which are delivered by these very women – shows a breathtaking level of crassness that has even surprised us.

“We will deal with this issue in due course but not today. “

The report stated the new pay and grading model couldn’t be introduced without “significant costs”.

It added: “That average earnings will increase appears unavoidable and this, it is suggested, is an inevitable consequence of the decision to settle equal pay.

“The total number of employees and hence the total pay bill is, however, subject to a degree of control.”

A council spokesman said: “The paper categorically does not say what the union has suggested and it is really unfair on staff to pretend it does.

“Carrying out a job evaluation exercise and implementing a new pay scheme always raises the prospect that an employer’s pay bill could fall, rise or stay the same – but to suggest that is about one group of staff is just wrong.”

The council has to finance loan deals, which total hundreds of millions, from selling off key assets to city property and then funding the deal through annual budgets to pay the settlements.

The first deal – for £285m – was struck with Legal and General earlier this year. A £166m, 30-year loan was then agreed with Canada Life Investments.

 The third loan, worth £195m, was agreed with Assured Guaranty.

By local democracy reporter Drew Sandelands

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