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200 jobs face axe at Southampton City Council
MORE than 200 staff at Southampton City Council are set to lose their jobs, it has been revealed.
The Labour -run council plans to sacrifice temporary workers to find positions for permanent employees facing the axe.
It is part of a pledge to avoid making council staff redundant as council leaders face a mounting budget deficit, estimated at £42m over the next two years.
But Tories last night said the temporary workers were being treated as “second class citizens”.
Labour have already offered a deal to reverse staff pay cuts made by the previous Conservative administration.
But the council’s finance boss revealed he plans to let around 200 temporary staff go so a new redeployment scheme, modelled on one pioneered by Sunderland City Council, can be made to work.
Labour leaders had initially said staff would be kept on the payroll for 12 months while they were found new jobs within the council and given retraining if needed – averting expensive redundancy payments.
The proposed redeployment period was then cut to eight months and now, in a further blow to staff who may face redundancy, finance boss Councillor Simon Letts revealed the scheme will initially only run for four months – one month longer than the current notice period for budget cuts.
A “compromise agreement” payment is being considered for staff who do not want to be redeployed.
Cllr Letts said Labour had not set out the prospect of the job losses in their election promises because they didn’t have the full details of the council’s finances.
He said: “We’ve got in excess of 200 people on short-term temporary contracts working for the authority at the moment.
"They are stop-gap staff. Now our view is we feel that permanent staff committed to the authority with a long term sense of being part of a team is better than having lots of temporary staff.”
He added that council chiefs had already met unions over the move.
Unison branch secretary Mike Tucker said around 30 staff were currently on the council’s redeployment register.
He said: “We would support the process where as the number of redundancies increases the number of temporary staff reduces to create vacancies for staff facing redundancy.”
But he said Unison was not in favour of “wholesale” temporary staff cuts.
Labour plans to bring in a fuller version of the scheme, including an internal employment agency, next year.
The announcement of the job cuts was criticised by opposition parties who questioned whether it was logical to put people into new roles of which they have no experience.
Opposition Tory finance spokesman councillor John Hannides said: “Temporary staff are being treated like second-class citizens. They are effectively paying for Labour’s redeployment plan.”
Tory leader Royston Smith said some of the temporary staff had worked for the council for seven years and accused Labour of not worrying about them because they are not unionised.
“After everything Labour promised in the run up to the local election they are content to sacrifice social workers, Sure Start assistants and bin men.
“They have mislead council workers and the public and this is just the beginning.”
The council employs around 240 temps. Cllr Letts said those who have been working for the council for more than two years, understood to be around 25, would be offered permanent contracts. Others would not have thier contracts renewed.
- Additional reporting by Matt Smith