Union vows to protect jobs amid cutbacks
PUBLIC service unions have vowed to protect jobs and services in the wake of swingeing £24million cuts and job losses to council services in Suffolk.Representatives from a range of teaching and public sector unions have collectively condemned Suffolk County Council's proposals which include making more than £14m cuts in adult social care and slashing support for foster carers and roads maintenance.
PUBLIC service unions have vowed to protect jobs and services in the wake of swingeing £24million cuts and job losses to council services in Suffolk.
Representatives from a range of teaching and public sector unions have collectively condemned Suffolk County Council's proposals which include making more than £14m cuts in adult social care and slashing support for foster carers and roads maintenance.
The unions, which include Unison and the National Union of Teachers, met on Tuesday to discuss the plans. They claim they had no input at all into the decision-making process.
“We condemn the proposals to cut services to our most vulnerable residents, both young and old,” read a joint statement.
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“Consultation with the trade unions has been wholly inadequate. The proposals given by the council have not had prior input from the trade unions.
“No details have been given of specific cuts to services or staff; this has created a great undertaking deal uncertainty and anxiety to members.”
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The unions are now considering what action they might take to protect jobs and services but Keith Anderson, county secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, would not be drawn last night on whether this could involve strike action.
“We cannot say one way or another. That would be down to individual unions and members and I'm not in a position to speak for them,” he said.
“At this stage we are considering our position. We need to meet again in light of further information coming from the county council where the cuts are going to be directed.
“One of our concerns is we don't have a lot of information. They have already carried out a review looking at where they can make savings and cuts and we were not involved in any of that.”
Suffolk has received a 2.9% increase in its grant towards council services from April 1 and has been told by ministers that it can expect a 5% increase for the financial year 2007-08.
The settlement has forced council bosses to make more than £14m cuts in adult social care, including the introduction of day care charges for people with learning difficulties.
It has also reduced cash support for foster carers by £393,000 and £685,000 from the roads maintenance budget.
Council leader Jeremy Pembroke said last night: “I totally agree with the unions, we should not be in the position of having to make these cuts. However, this is the naked reality of a devastatingly poor settlement grant. As Unison is on record as saying - the blame lies firmly on central government.
“I have been working since the summer to prepare staff for this news and we have begun consultation much earlier than any administration in the history of this council.
“The trade unions were among the first to receive our proposals at a meeting I chaired with them the day before the information was released. Senior officers have met with trade unions individually and I have met with staff on five separate occasions, across the county, over the last two months to listen to their views. I have been touched by their comments about the difficult task we face.”
He added: “Nobody has a monopoly on ideas. I welcome suggestions from all quarters on how we can make up a £24 million shortfall and we are committed to keeping staff fully informed.”