Byelection issues 1: the pay dispute

Four days ago I put this question to the two leading candidates in the Hanover & Elm Grove byelection:

Emma Daniel‘s response was pretty swift. She is (not surprisingly) using Twitter well to engage with people on a range of issues in her election campaign. She replied with two tweets:

I offered her the chance to send me a longer response by email, but she didn’t take this up.

While commendably swift, I must say this doesn’t actually answer my question.

I’ve had to wait much longer for a response from David Gibson. Others on Twitter also noted his silence, as the dispute became more intense over the past few days.

However, last night, David published a lengthy statement on his campaign blog.

I’d urge people to read and comment on this statement. It makes several things very clear about where David stands on the issue and how his election would affect the balance of forces within the Green group on the council.

The key points, in my view, are:

“The city council must leave no stone unturned and show leadership in achieving this difficult task. For cityclean workers at the council refuse collection department my red line, if elected as a councillor, is that the council must agree a settlement and not impose one on its own workers.” (emphasis in original)

“as a Green Party activist, I believe fairness is worth fighting for. That means:

[…]

Fairness in industrial relations, including fair negotiating practices and no use of agency or contract workers to break a legitimate and legally organised trade union strike.

[…]”

and

“I believe that anyone taking home less than £21,000 is low paid and Greens should be exploring strenuously every avenue to avoid any outcome that lowers the income of low-paid workers. That the local Green Party has found ways of achieving a Living Wage for council workers demonstrates its commitment to achieve things in difficult circumstances.  We need to show the same commitment to find ways of protecting the take home pay of low paid workers. Where there is a will, there is usually a way. I supported the resolution on this passed by local Green Party members earlier this year.

If elected, I will support any settlement that is negotiated with the unions, but not the imposition of a deal that reduces the pay of low paid workers.” (emphasis in original)

The debate on this pay dispute has been plagued by secrecy, with all participants emphasising only the aspects of the issue which suit their particular interest. However (as both Emma and David rightly recognise) it will only be properly resolved by talking.

I agree with David – we urgently need leadership from the Green council, and a commitment to reach a settlement the unions can support. If Jason Kitcat is not prepared to meet that challenge, he should step aside and let someone else take it on.


Cityclean dispute: open the books

I’ve just sent this letter to the Argus:

[edit: the letter was published in the Argus on Friday June 7th]

Jason Kitcat says (Argus, Friday 31st May) that he urges people to come forward with improvements to the pay offer that is currently on the table.

However, nobody (other than the officers he has tasked with negotiating a settlement) has access to the necessary information to come up with a better solution.

Brighton is full of people with imagination, creativity and goodwill, who could be asked to help solve this thorny problem.  The workers directly affected could no doubt come up with some good ways to tackle it.

But everyone who wants to help find a solution is held back by the secrecy surrounding the basic facts and figures. Even Caroline Lucas can’t get to the bottom of why the officers are insisting on a solution that involves cutting the take-home pay of some of the lowest paid workers at the council.

I urge Jason Kitcat to publish the information we need to come up with a better solution. How many workers are employed at each pay grade and how much of their pay is made up of allowances? How are the officers calculating the cost of equalising pay at a higher level, rather than levelling downwards by reducing allowances? How many directly employed officers are on salaries higher than £50,000pa?

Share the information, and I’m sure some constructive solutions will be put forward. Nobody wants to see a strike by Cityclean and city parks staff, least of all the workers themselves. Give the people of Brighton the opportunity to help settle the dispute.