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SHEFFIELD MAYBREAK FROM NATIONAL PAY AGREEMENTS

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Sheffield City Council members have given the go ahead for an immediate review of all national and local conditions...
Sheffield City Council members have given the go ahead for an immediate review of all national and local conditions of service affecting the authority's 24,000 workforce in a move which looks set to break with existing national negotiating machinery.

The proposals, which aim to cut costs and improve productivity - largely through the introduction of more flexible working practices - were endorsed earlier this week by the council's policy committee.

Senior members and management see proposed measures as necessary if the council is to maintain existing services and avoid compulsory redundancies next year in the face of an estimated £40 million budget shortfall for 1994-95.

At the meeting members resolved to ask the council's corporate management team 'to consider all existing conditions of employment, policies and practices with the benefit of information, concerning national and local practices, external comparisons, in both public and private sectors, financial cost benefit, feasibility and timescale for implementation'.

Senior managers have been asked to come up with a full package of local conditions which members want to have in place by next April.

Other proposals include: encouraging departmental agreements on working practices and increased productivity; renegotiation of the industrial relations framework - with reductions in trade union time off and access to council facilities seen as an immediate cost saving priority; and an end to current pay guarantees for redeployed staff.

It is clear that members are also looking to continue voluntary redundancy and early retirement schemes which have allowed around 2,000 staff to leave the council in the past 12 months.

Last year staff agreed to a 3.25% pay cut in return for seven extra days' holidays to help fund the schemes and avoid 1,500 compulsory job losses. But while council leader Mike Bower has let it be known that a continuation of the short time working arrangement - either in individual departments or across the council - remains an option, the unions are ruling this out.

The proposals to withdraw from national negotiations over pay and conditions and to review all existing local agreements has brought an angry reaction from the trade unions.

'Any proposals which result in the erosion or wholesale abandonment of national and local conditions of service are totally unacceptable', insists Sheffield Unison Service Conditions Officer Jed Turner. 'Last year's work sharing agreement - which all parties agreed would operate for just one year - included explicit protection for national and local conditions of service, and now we get this.

'It's absolute nonsense for the council to go on about empowering employees, cutting bureaucracy and increasing motivation', he said.

'How can they expect staff to deliver quality services when morale is rock bottom and stress levels are going through the roof as employees attempt to maintain services with far fewer staff.

'These latest proposals are just another kick in the teeth and will cause anger and resentment among a workforce who've already made considerable sacrifices to avoid compulsory redundancies and increase productivity'.

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