WHAT IS GOING ON IN PARANOID SALFORD?
It was back in November when Salford City Mayor, Ian Stewart, launched a very public, very thinly veiled attack on the Salford Star, accusing this publication of "lies". The Salford Star wrote a very public, open letter back to him disproving every point he made. To date there has been no reply – for the full article click here
Then, this month, Councillor Gena Merrett, Salford's Assistant Mayor for Housing and the Environment wrote on her website that the Salford Star was a "key supporter of an extreme left-wing political party that aims to 'smash The Labour Council and the Labour Party'" and accused the Star of producing a housing story that was "far from accurate". Again the Star wrote an open letter, answering her every wrong, slanderous remark - for the full article click here.
This week, the Salford Mayor has been busy attacking the city's trade unions (and maybe the Salford Star again, who knows?), firstly in a press release and, secondly at the full meeting of Salford Council yesterday.
The tirade was centred around the Pay and Grading Agreement, which was accepted by Salford Council's workforce last week, after a ballot. Ian Stewart put out a press release stating "This overwhelming result in favour of the new structure is a slap in the face for the handful of extremists who tried to derail this agreement and misrepresent what we were trying to do for their own extreme political ends."
And in the Council chamber yesterday Stewart reported to councillors that reaching the Agreement had been "fraught with misinformation and downright lies from people with vested interests".
He added that the "misinformation" concerned the allegation that 60% of the Council workforce would lose money in the new pay structure. This, he repeated, was "downright lies".
Indeed, after reading Salford Council's Pay and Grading Consultation Report last October, all three trade unions that represent Salford Council workers - Salford City UNISON, GMB and UNITE the union - sent a circular to their members branding the Report "completely unacceptable" and accusing Salford Council of "bully boy tactics, especially from a Labour Council" (for further details see here).
The unions were furious because the Report threatened to sack staff who didn't sign up to the new Agreement and re-employ them on new terms. It also stated that, by 2017/18, 58% of staff would have had their wages cut (see photo of table).
Official Salford Council figures showed that almost 60% of the workforce would lose money under the agreement. It's there in black and white. Yet Stewart continues to say that the unions were guilty of "downright lies" and "misinformation".
As a result of the Consultation Report, lobbies of the Council were organised and there was a mass meeting of around 200 UNISON members which voted to "instigate an industrial action ballot of all UNISON members affected by these proposals".
Mr Stewart is now saying that this was all the work of a "handful of extremists who tried to derail this agreement and misrepresent what we were trying to do for their own extreme political ends."
Like, looking after their members' interests, Mr Mayor? Indeed, it can easily be argued that the backlash from staff and the trade unions forced Salford Council to think again about its proposals and come up with a better, less intimidating offer…
…Under the final Agreement, almost 10% (629) of staff will face a pay cut, others will either stay the same or get a wage rise, while the Living Wage of £7.45 an hour will be brought in for lowest paid staff.
Had the original proposal gone ahead, without a fight, the figures showed that almost 60% of Council staff would have had a pay cut. Trade union members were balloted on the revised offer and accepted it last week. UNISON didn't recommend that staff vote for or against the change.
Originally three trade unions opposed Salford Council's pay proposals, backed up by lobbies and at least two mass meetings of workers. Can all those hundreds of people involved really be a "handful of extremists"? Or is Salford's Mayor losing the plot?
At the end of one of his speeches at yesterday's Council meeting, Ian Stewart railed against the "naysayers" trying to bring "the politics of chaos" to Salford… "We're democrats, not revolutionaries" he frothed.
Perhaps Salford's Mayor, and his Labour Party team of Assistant Mayors, councillors and spin doctors, might like to try acting like `democrats' – instead of morphing into a horrid mixture of Stalin and McCarthy, smearing anyone who dares to disagree with, or question their actions.
Responding to Ian Stewart's remarks, Steve North, Salford City UNISON branch secretary, gave a very diplomatic statement…
"The specific comments made in the press release are disappointing and we have written to the Mayor to say as much. 333 of our members voted to reject the proposals. While they were the minority in this case, their concerns are understandable and must be listened to.
"We look forward to the implementation of the positive aspects of these proposals, especially the commitment to extending the Living Wage to other workers in the city. At the same time we need to focus on what we can do to mitigate against and minimise losses during the period of pay protection, and hope that the Mayor and Council will assist in that aim.
"One of the first things the Mayor could do to help, is to state that he believes local government workers should be offered more than the measly 1% national pay award we have received from our employers nationally, an offer UNISON has rejected.
"We also hope he can approach the Local Government Employers and the Local Government Association and help us get them back around the table with a fairer offer. The letter we have written to him asks for his support and we hope to receive a positive reply."