South Lakes MP Tim Farron has today written to the leader of Cumbria County Council asking him to call off the deeply controversial and unpopular single status programme.
This comes as many staff are reeling after failing in their stage 3 appeals. Now many staff face either signing a contract that will slash their wages by up to 30% or receiving a 'dismissal and re-engagement letter' in the next few days. The letters going to staff in the coming days say: "Unfortunately, despite a reminder, it appears that to date you have not confirmed your agreement to these terms and conditions by signing and returning the revised contact. As a consequence it is now necessary to give you notice of implementation." The single status team say in a covering letter to the drafts that have been circulated that: "Dismissal and re-engagement notices will be issued to staff home addresses on Saturday 25th June thereby allowing for staff to receive their new contracts from you beforehand."
At this morning's full county council meeting, staff handed over a petition asking the council to think again about the plans. In reply, cabinet member Cllr Liz Mallinson said: "in receiving the further petitions in support of teaching assistants, everyone recognises the fantastic job that all our staff do," but she then goes onto say there will be no change in the council's failing policy. She later admitted under questioning that the councils handling of the single status programme had negatively affected staff morale throughout the authority.
In the letter Tim has written today to council leader Cllr Eddie Martin he says: "I am writing to you to formally request that you suspend the controversial and deeply unpopular single status programme. As you know I have been a long-time opponent of these plans, and have long argued that the way the county council has dealt with the scheme will lead to massive pay cuts for hard working, loyal and determined public sector workers who frankly deserve to be treated much better than this.
"The Conservative-Labour coalition has got this decision badly wrong. It is not just me who believes that this whole process has been handled badly. All of the counties other MPs believe this too. Trade unions who are broadly supportive of the single status scheme believe that this is hurting staff, and they are looking at strike action. Many of these MPs and trade unionists are members of the two parties that make up your coalition.
"I'm sure that this shows that single status is supposed to be a rigorous exercise that harmonises job roles, terms and conditions. It is clear after the conclusion of stage three appeals that there is widespread confusion and dismay amongst county council employees and each section of the process has been rushed, conflicting information has been sent out by your authority even up this week."