Trade union conveners slated by council leader
Trade union members at a previous meeting in the council chamber at Garshake.
By BILL HEANEY
West Dunbartonshire Council’s political leader has responded vigorously to trade union criticism of the SNP/Tory decision to cut back on the time allocated to shop stewards for worker representation.
Councillor Jonathan McColl (right) said the suggestion that the council was neglecting its staff were “ludicrous” and went on to take a sideswipe at staff members who responded to a budget consultation survey, which the Labour opposition claims is seriously flawed.
He listed comments from some staff in response to the consultation stating they were “copied verbatim including typos”.
The SNP leader claimed: “Following a successful public and staff budget consultation, 79% of the public and 64% of staff respondents backed proposals to bring publicly funded trade union conveners’ hours more into line with other similar council areas.”
Currently, he maintained, the council funds 3.4 full time equivalent hours (FTE), which are shared between five conveners.
And although the staff and the public were supportive of a reduction to just one hour, the administration decided to double this “to be shared in whatever manner best meets the needs of the trade unions”.
This was in line with other nearby councils, including Falkirk and Inverclyde.
Cllr McColl criticised the unions for “a lack of constructive representation during the budget process”, alleging that over a period of three months of engagement with them, Unison, Unite and GMB “refused to provide any meaningful feedback on any of the budget proposals other than expressing their opposition to a cut to trade union convener time”.
This was in contrast to the EIS, the teachers’ union, who provided information which “led directly to the reversal of a management adjustment and along with the public consultation feedback, informed the administration’s decision-making around the other education options”.
SNP finance spokesperson, Cllr Ian Dickson (left), added: “This decision brings us closer into line with the arrangements in other councils and ensures that the trade unions have sufficient representation at a senior level.
“We also fund hundreds of hours of ‘facility time’ to allow other trade union officials and shop stewards to represent their members; there are no proposals to cut facility time in any way.
“The council must spend public money wisely and when both staff and the public are telling us that we cannot justify this excess spend, we have a duty to act.
“We respect the views of our constituents and our staff and we ask the trade unions to do the same.”
Cllr McColl said: “Against a backdrop of non-teaching conveners neglecting to represent their members, the suggestion that we are failing our staff is ludicrous.
“We are listening to our staff and trade union conveners need to get their heads out of the sand and reflect on the fact that the unconstructive, combative manner in which they have been going about their business is not what staff want to see.”
He added: “The (unions’) current practice of not turning up for meetings and refusing to discuss issues where they disagree with management’s opening position is not useful in any way.
“Negotiation, discussion and compromise need both sides to talk constructively. All I ask is that they start engaging meaningfully with management on issues that directly affect their members.”
There will be a meeting of trade union members to discuss the matter at Garshake on April 3.