Council workers forced to take unpaid leave

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If they want to keep their jobs, then Rochdale council workers may well be forced to take unpaid holidays in order to help the council save money.

The new proposals are part of a package aimed at cutting costs without losing jobs, but are they fair and will we see the practice spread?
The proposals
The council plans to force workers to take an extra week of holiday without pay in order to help cut another £64 million from its budget by 2015 - it has already cut £64 million this year.

The move will effectively see council workers' pay fall - some by up to 2.5%, and will affect all non-school staff. Meanwhile, in a nod towards the 'all-in-this-together' notion, managers will take a 5% pay cut. The whole lot together will take about £5.5 million off the wage bill.

They can't do this without the staff signing up to it, so there will be a consultation period with staff and the unions, and a ballot in the Autumn in order to allow them to have their say on the matter.

The reaction
The reaction is tricky to predict. This year's cuts have already seen 750 jobs axed at the council - which employs about 7,000 people outside the schools. This may mean they are willing to be more flexible because they see just how fragile their position is. They have also seen agreements for the number of councillors to fall from 60 to 40 from 2014 and their allowances will be cut, while the number of senior managers and directors has been dramatically slashed - so there shouldn't be the tradition antagonism there.

They may also appreciate that the council is making an effort to keep them on, and is trying to do more than simply cut pay - by giving them the days off in return.

Alternatively they may think they are working hard to cover the gaps left by departing staff, so they shouldn't face pay cuts as well. Or they may be so steeped in council-thinking that they feel their jobs and terms and conditions are entitlements that should never be allowed to be taken away - despite the fact that this sort of thing has been going on within the private sector since 2007 as companies struggle to keep their heads above water.

We will have to wait for the ballot to see which of these factors holds the most sway. If the ballot accepts the changes without a fuss, then it may well form a model for other councils hoping to cut their budgets without ending up with a fight on their hands.

However, its a lot to ask employees to accept. If I was in Rochdale I wouldn't be holding out great hope for reliable council services this autumn. But what do you think? Let us know in the comments.