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BRISTOL COUNCIL STAFF: Transfer of 200 staff to Bristol Waste approved

BRISTOL COUNCIL STAFF: Transfer of 200 staff to Bristol Waste approved

Image: LDRS

Controversial plans to transfer about 200 city council staff to Bristol Waste have been approved.

Cabinet members rubber-stamped the proposal to move cleaning and security employees over to the local authority’s rubbish and recycling company despite fierce opposition from unions who say it amounts to “lambs lobbying for a new abattoir”.

Bristol City Council insists all workers’ terms and conditions will remain unchanged and that the plans will save taxpayers £2million over four years and then £900,000 annually.

The dispute has seen City Hall bosses accuse unions of walking out of meetings and opposition members claiming staff have been “gagged”.

In a statement to an extraordinary meeting of cabinet on Thursday, March 18, GMB union Avon and Wessex branch president Jeff Sutton said: “Councillors are still happy to agree to this. It’s a bit like lambs lobbying for a new abattoir.

“The unions have expressed their concerns about the detrimental effect this transfer will have on its members and the citizens they serve, and the transfer of staff from one failing service to a failing company.”

Unison Bristol branch secretary Tom Merchant told cabinet members the transfer, which affects a disproportionate amount of employees with African, Caribbean and Somali ethnic backgrounds, would be “damaging”.

He said: “People are not assets to be passed off to third parties.

“No one stood on the hustings and said they stood for taking the poorest of our staff and displacing them into a different company.

“This is an idea from people who are personally unaffected by such disasters as outsourcing.”

Mr Merchant said that even if workers’ contracts remained the same under the Tupe transfer, Bristol Waste had different disciplinary and grievance policies and there would be a two-tier system where new appointees would be on different pay to colleagues.

Tory Cllr Richard Eddy said in a statement to cabinet that concerns remained despite the issue being debated by the overview and scrutiny management board (OSMB) and at two meetings of the human resources committee, which led to cabinet agreeing to postpone its decision while it was debated fuller.

Cllr Eddy said: “The report suggests that meaningful consultation has been carried out with the staff concerned.

“My feedback from employees suggests this was far from the case and, in fact, opposition has been overtly muzzled.

“Both OSMB and the HR committee were told by HR officers that the trades unions had expressly refused to engage over this issue.

“Evidence has been supplied of the contrary. I think such false information is outrageous.

“Members of staff have been expressly refused the right to address democratic committees of councillors.

“This is utterly unjust and unfair and a denial of the principles which Bristol City Council is supposed to maintain.”

Deputy mayor Cllr Craig Cheney told the Labour cabinet that the council would “retain strategic oversight of the operation while day-to-day management passes on to Bristol Waste”.

He said: “There have been high levels of scrutiny throughout the proposal’s journey which will also continue through effective contract management.

“The business case for this transfer is compelling, both saving expenditure and ensuring services can grow and expand.

“Staff are protected by Tupe and we have also included additional protections which are defined in the contracts, for example, no future redundancies and complete protection of contracted terms and conditions for the duration of the service agreement.”

Cllr Cheney said the right to return to the city council would be “enshrined in their terms and conditions should Bristol Waste cease to be operational or if a future administration closes the company”.

He said the firm had a “robust and active policy which fully supports equality and diversity”.

“We hear the concerns raised but feel confident these are being met and ultimately we are delivering the best outcomes for the city and people of Bristol,” he added.

Mayor Marvin Rees said the agreement provided a “real hard-and-fast safety net”.

Cabinet member Cllr Kye Dudd, a Royal Mail union official for 15 years, said staff were not being “outsourced” but “co-sourced”.

He said: “From a trade union point of view, the staff being transferred are going into the strongest section of the union in the council, the waste company.

“The membership is double what it is in the rest of the council.

“Union officials within the waste company negotiate the pay of the company.

“I can see the pay, terms and conditions getting better for these workers than if they remained in the council, so I don’t really see what the issue is.”

Cabinet member Cllr Steve Pearce said: “The new opportunities for career progression of these members of staff should be greatly enhanced.

“It should be a very exciting opportunity for them and it’s an exciting opportunity for the council to extend its influence throughout the city.”

The transfer takes effect on June 1.

Words: Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporter


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