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Anger at city council 'rush' to use tough new laws on redundancy

UNION leaders and opposition ­politicians have criticised Scotland's largest council for pioneering new Westminster workforce laws which they claim make it easier to sack staff.

Labour-controlled Glasgow City Council is accused of twice in recent months "rushing to use" the new 45-day notice period where staff are dismissed and either made permanently redundant or re-engaged on new terms and conditions.

The legislation, voted against by Labour MPs and opposed by the trade union movement, was introduced last April by the Coalition's Employment Relations Minister and East Dunbartonshire MP Jo Swinson and cuts the redundancy notice period from 90 days.

In late 2013, the council's education director wrote to union Unison to begin the formal legal process of giving notice that almost 1400 staff could be dismissed and offered new terms after 45 days.

Last month the union was contacted again, this time by social work bosses, as a 45-day notice process was started. This was part of the ongoing dispute with care home staff which will see many take home less pay. However, new terms were accepted before individual notices were issued to staff.

It has been claimed, amid ongoing strife and disputes between Unison and council executives, that the new notice period was used to intimidate staff and undermine collective bargaining.

Now, Glasgow's opposition SNP have moved to have the practice ruled out by the council, while also causing some unease amongst members of the city's Labour administration who are prominent in the trade union movement.

It is understood that there are tensions within the administration, with some members expressing disquiet that the notices run contrary to the principles of the Labour movement.

Meanwhile, Unison has also insisted the authority is among the first in the UK to adopt the Coalition's legislation, adding that the council has a raft of alternatives to the 45-day notice. For its part, the council said it had stuck to its long-held policy of no compulsory redundancies and that 45 days was "a minimum not a target".

A motion at this week's full council by the SNP's Susan Aitken states: "Council agreed that the use of 45-day redundancy notices to force workers to accept changes to their pay and conditions is unacceptable and should not be used by any department or Aleo (arm's length external organisation) of Glasgow City Council.

"Council affirms its commitment to the principle of collective bargaining and negotiation to determine workers' pay and conditions and further agrees that this is the route by which all of its departments and Aleos should conduct relations with their staff."

Brian Smith, Unison's Glasgow organiser, said: "Collective bargaining has been the cornerstone of the trade union movement's approach to industrial relations for over 100 years.

"The Government is attacking workers' rights, trade unions and collectivism. It is a disgrace Glasgow City Council has rushed to use these new laws in recent disputes with its workforce and the trade union."

The council's political head of personnel matters, Cllr Matt Kerr, said: "In ­reality, restructuring or reorganisation takes much longer than 90 days and, working with our workforce and unions, the formal consultation element of that process can take considerably less.

"Where negotiations need more time, we can still take more time and where we are able to move forward together faster, preserving jobs and improving services, we can do that too.

"Cllr Aitken knows this, just as she knows the administration has never made a single compulsory redundancy nor issued a single 45-day notice."

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Local government

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