Argyll and Bute councillors have taken the first steps in aligning the redundancy procedure for teaching staff with those of other council staff. The move, agreed by the executive, would ensure equality and consistency are applied across the council’s workforce.
The Redundancy Policy and procedures have already been discussed in depth with the trades unions.
Councillors are being asked to implement an equivalent redundancy procedure for teaching staff to the current Local Government Employee (LGE) scheme, which applies to the rest of the council’s workforce.
Argyll and Bute Council inherited an employment guarantee for teachers from the former Strathclyde Regional Council. This arrangement, which dates back to the 1980s, includes the agreement that no teachers will be made compulsorily redundant.
No other council employees enjoy such protection.
The redundancy policy which the council agreed in November last year explicitly set down its intention to apply to all council employees.
It states that in the first instance the authority will try to reduce employee numbers on a voluntary basis. However, where this does not produce suitable volunteers, the council will seek to agree the criteria to be used when making compulsory redundancies with trades unions representatives.
Council leader and chair of the Executive, Councillor Dick Walsh, said: “This is an issue about consistency and equality. It is neither consistent nor equitable to have one group of employees treated more favourably in terms of job security than the rest”.“The retention of a clause which protects teaching staff from compulsory redundancy is not only at odds with the employment terms of the rest of the workforce, but also significantly limits the council’s options in terms of managing its budget and employee numbers .
“We have not made any secret of the severity of the budget challenges we face. Although compulsory redundancy is clearly the very last option we would consider as a means of meeting that challenge, it is nevertheless an important tool for any employer to have in order to effectively manage its workforce.
“This is about being fair across our workforce – nothing more.”
Argyll and Bute’s education service has been is tasked with finding savings of some £10.4million.
The retention of any surplus teachers, which would have to happen under the current arrangements, would have a significant impact on the education budget because the council would be forced to seek savings from other areas of education.
The trades unions – through the Education Joint Negotiating Committee - have expressed their opposition to the removal of the ‘no compulsory redundancies for teachers’ clause in the current agreement.
As a result of the failure to agree with the unions, the matter will now be referred to the National Joint Secretaries. A further report will be drawn up for councillors once that body has submitted its feedback.