At one time I was very involved in national, regional and local pay bargaining. It was in the old days when there was a thing called “negotiations” between employers and trade unions. One thing both sides always agreed on was – there’s more to a happy workforce than pay. And a happy workforce is a productive one.
I remember a trade union survey on morale; pay was only the fourth most important determinant. The forces at play determining how people feel at work are like an iceberg where one-fifth is visible, such as pay, and the rest is hidden underwater, for example whether or not your boss is a jerk.
We’ve just had a staff survey that’s not good reading. Leaving aside the laws of physics, our iceberg has melted above the water and is sinking to the bottom. There is very little fun in our workplace.
Part of the issue is pay, but there is a strong sense that staff do not feel valued, are not supported enough to do their jobs and have little influence in what happens at work. They feel their prospects are bleak with little scope for promotion and there are fears over job security.
I think this is the micro manifestation of the macro situation for local government. I’m sure we could have implemented the cuts better over the past few years but most staff can read the national writing on the wall. It is about funding, but staff see local government is not valued, the sector is not supported by ministers, they ignore our views and ideas, and the situation is bleak and unsure.
Has the fightback started to regain our sector morale? I think it has. The first public statement by David Sparks (Lab), the chair elect of the LGA, was a joy to read. (I have emailed it to all staff.) The content was excellent – devolution, abuse of power by central government, champion local government employees, attacks in the tabloids, etc.
But the best bit is the spirit of Cllr Sparks. He wants to fight for us. His audiences are all political parties, this government and the next. Most important, he mentions the public. This shows an intention to change the style of the LGA – at last some public campaigning to defend us.
Will it happen? To make this dramatic change Cllr Sparks needs support from LGA political colleagues and staff, and all of us. Can we do it? Yes we can.
The one thing he won’t comment on is his identity…