A meeting of Brighton and Hove Green Party earlier this week overwhelmingly agreed that it could not support any Brighton & Hove City Council pay offer now being made that would leave staff worse off.
The council’s pay offer, which it suggests will affect about 10% of staff, varies from employee to employee, so each offer is now being individually communicated to staff members by their managers during a 90 day ‘staff consultation’.
Hundreds of staff face a drop in take home pay, offset by one-off, lump-sum compensation packages; the council has stated that, as a result of allowance changes and the compensation, some affected staff will be better off while others have to decide whether they feel the compensation is enough to offset their overall loss.
This is an individual decision.
Much play has been made on social media that individuals may lose up to £95/week, or more than £4,000 a year.
However, unofficial sources have recently revealed that a reduction of that level applies to just three employees and does not take into account their compensation package, which is worth about three years’ losses.
Most staff face lower reductions and lower compensation, generally worth between two and three years of loss, sometimes a little more.
The complete picture is not this simple but it seems clear that once the compensation is gone, low paid staff will be living on even lower weekly take home pay.
Greens says this has angered staff and it’s unacceptable to the Brighton and Hove Green Party, which has resolved to campaign against it.
Chair of Brighton and Hove Green Party Rob Shepherd said, “The party’s made it clear it cannot support a final offer that appears to leave council staff with a cut in their consolidated take home pay.
“These include some of the city’s lowest paid workers and we understand how they must be feeling.
“We recognise that the offer particularly benefits women who, it seems, have not been treated fairly under the existing payment structure.
“It goes without saying that women should be paid the same as men in comparable situations and we support creating a fair and gender-balanced pay structure.
“But it is not right if low paid people of either sex end up with a loss of income to achieve that balance.
“We’re also disappointed with the council administration’s decision to delegate pay negotiations entirely to council officers, meaning the administration now has no say in what’s being proposed.
“This is a council offer, not a BH Greens offer. If there are pay cuts on the table, they are not in our name.
“We hope that, as a result of the party’s intervention, the Green administration will find a way to take back control of the process and ensure the council will look again at any offers that result in consolidated pay losses.”
Green MP for Brighton Pavilion constituency Caroline Lucas said, “Since the negotiations began, I have made my opposition to any cuts in take home pay very clear.
“I am therefore disappointed that, whilst some will gain from this process, a number will face a reduction in the money they have to live off each week.
“This is unacceptable. I know from the many constituents who have written to me about this issue that they agree.
“So too does the Brighton and Hove Green Party, whose members have voted to condemn the offer and also express dismay that responsibility for the pay negotiations was handed to council officers.
“With the support of the local Green Party, I have pledged to campaign against proposals made to workers that will lead to a loss of pay.”
Party Chair Rob Shepherd added, “We also condemn the city’s Labour and Conservative parties for creating the mess that the council is seeking to manage. They are quick to criticise the Green administration yet they created the problem.
“Going back decades, both parties have presided over agreements which look blatantly unfair to some parts of the workforce and especially women. Both parties permitted what look like unethical, unequal deals. And both parties were warned time and again by council officers that they needed to sort it out but they bottled it in fear of industrial disputes.
“Whatever the current state of the pay offer, it is utterly hypocritical of Labour and Conservatives to say anything other than ‘sorry’.”
“However, it’s more important that all politicians now pull together in the interests of some of the city’s lowest paid workers. These people must be at the heart of whatever we do.”
Responding to the party’s decision, council leader Jason Kitcat said, “I very much understand and sympathise with the concerns expressed in the local party motion.
“Members of council staff have just received the council’s offer to create a fair and clear system of allowances which completes the final step of the ‘single status’ process.
“There is now a 90 day consultation period for staff to consider the offer, how it will affect them and respond to their managers with their views.
“I believe it is important to not prejudge that consultation, how staff may consider the proposals, nor any negotiations which I hope will follow.
“During this consultation period I am confident that the council continues to be open to any suggestions from staff and unions that could further improve the offer whilst ensuring it remains legally and financially viable.”
For more information please contact the Brighton and Hove Green Party office on 01273 766 670.