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Unison calls for council tax to go up in Neath Port Talbot to protect workers from pay cuts

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: December 15, 2012

By Paul Lewis

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UNION leaders have called for an increase in council tax bills to protect Neath Port Talbot Council workers from being hit by crippling pay cuts.

The authority is finalising proposals to combat a predicted £21 million budget shortfall in its forward financial plan for 2013-18.

Officers are looking at a combination of service cuts, council tax increases, staff wage cuts and increased fees and charges to help close the gap.

But Unison has warned it will not accept further wage cuts — and says a small increase in council tax would lift the threat of a wage cut of up to £2,000 a year for its members.

Branch chairman Mark Fisher said Unison held a meeting with the council to discuss the forward financial plan. A further meeting would be held in January as the proposals had not been finalised.

"But they have not ruled anything out," said Mr Fisher. "Permanent wage cuts are still on the agenda, together with a reduction in terms and conditions, job losses, cuts in services and further outsourcing.

"Our response is still the same. Look at all other options first before looking at our wages.

"We have not ruled out industrial action as a last resort if negotiations breakdown and the council look to implement these proposals."

Mr Fisher said the council had stated it was looking at Unison's own proposals, which included an increase in council tax to maintain services.

"This equates to a small increase of £1 a week for council tax payers of Neath Port Talbot as opposed to our membership who will be asked to lose up to £2,000 a year on a permanent basis," he added.

Wages

Unison has also called for any wages should be spread across the board rather that targeting low-paid staff who were already struggling to keep their heads above water.

Branch secretary Melanie Fender said: "Our members have not had a pay rise for three years.

"This equates to a pay decrease of 15 per cent in real terms and now they face a pay cut of up to £2,000.

"Enough is enough! Our members are ready to fight if we have to, but we will always look to negotiate before encouraging industrial action, which is always a last resort."

Ms Fender said there was a clear alternative, which councillors had to consider first.

"Can you imagine British Gas saying that the price of gas had to increase, but rather than pass that cost onto its customers they were going to ask their staff to pay for it?" she asked.

"I don't think the majority of people would expect or accept that, and I can imagine how British Gas staff would react."

Council leader Ali Thomas said: "The package of measures remains under consideration and final decisions have yet to be taken.

"Council tax levels will be determined in due course; but it will be important to ensure that the impact of the UK Government's welfare reform measures are not exacerbated by simply hitting those who can least afford it even harder."

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  • JerryLew  |  December 16 2012, 7:50PM

    Jiffy what a clown comment - i will and always have voted - who does this fender answer to then? get a grip and talk sense for a change.

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  • GorsseinonJoe  |  December 16 2012, 7:09PM

    Is this the same Union that complains about the poorest being hit the hardest? As I've said before on these forums, all for one and one for all....until it actually comes down to it solidarity...brother.

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  • beano12345  |  December 16 2012, 4:57PM

    I understand Mr D Prentis gen sec Unison earns £92,187, plus £35,249 in benefits; so just over 127 grand in total p.a. "United we stand."

    |   4
  • ArthurRittick  |  December 16 2012, 12:53PM

    Jiffy, if you think we haven't got duffers now, you can't be living in Wales, nevermind NPT! Those duffers certainly belong to the Labour party, the Lib Dems, Plaid & the Tories. Our political system is corrupt & not fit-for-purpose. The current "expenses" method is nothing more than a way to reward councillors for toeing the party line. They also get extra for belonging to various sub-comittees & that's morally wrong if not downright corrupt.

    |   2
  • Neathboy234  |  December 16 2012, 11:10AM

    I would never vote for an independent councilor around here. In most cases that are Tories in disguise. Same goes for ratepayers party in NPT. Not all of them just some. I could name a few, but on here that would be inappropriate

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  • Jiffy  |  December 16 2012, 9:34AM

    ArthurRittick - the nonsense continues. Do we want councillors of independent means to run councils? Or old duffers, on their way to being totally gaga, who can't make sense of a bus timetable, being responsible for £millions. It costs money to be a county councillor, they take time off work to attend meetings and keep up to date with events. Would you prefer they received backhanders instead?

    |   -3
  • ArthurRittick  |  December 16 2012, 8:14AM

    Much talk about how to raise revenue either to replace Council Tax or increase the funds rised by it but nothing said about the "expenses" being paid to councillors or the higher-than-necessary salaries of the Council's directorate. Savings to be made in both these areas I believe.

    |   7
  • Jiffy  |  December 16 2012, 12:56AM

    JerryLew - when will it sink in that Melanie Fender doesn't have to answer to you? If you want answers, go ask your councillor. You know, the person that represents you at the council. Although, I've a strong feeling you're the sort who doesn't vote, just moans.

    |   -4
  • JerryLew  |  December 16 2012, 12:32AM

    tellyon & neathboy234 wake up and smell the chicken - cuts have to be made. neathboy234 - totally with you on the banking issue. tellyon - lots of words but no substance - what are you trying to say? i did think the 24 hour strike bit was was way over the top - but then again as you say you pay to be a unison member - lets see where that gets you all. lets have some ideas about cuts. melanie fender - please give details about what cuts you have proposed. how about the union member fee - notice it is based on income - all for one and one for all then does not apply to your union then.

    |   -2
  • tellyon  |  December 15 2012, 10:58PM

    Sheeeesh! UNISON should be helping to organise a massive fightback against the cuts. There is no need to put up the council tax for ordinary working people... that is just another way of getting ordinary people to pay for the mistakes of the tax-dodging casino capitalists. We need a 24 hour General Strike to boost the fightback against this crazy austerity. UNISON should have more confidence in the workers and be helping to give a lead in the anti-austerity struggle, not sowing the seeds of apathy by working hand in hand with councilors from ANY political party to facilitate these cuts. The NPT 'Labour' council should set a needs budget and demand that central govt. make up the shortfall. They should also organise a mass campaign against austerity and to defend democracy to make it impossible for cental govt. to attempt to take control of the council out of the hands of ELECTED councillors. Nobody voted for austerity or Eric Pickles! Instead of giving a left cover to the cowardly Labour Party that is running NPT council, UNISON should be removing funding from the Labour party and helping to build a new party for the 99%. Mass 'people power' can overturn these cuts and get a decent settlement for workers. I am a UNISON member myself. There are some great people in UNISON, but the current Labour-lapdog leadership sucks ... (despite the latest 'tough' words from Prentis - actions speak louder than words - he can't just make a statement and then not follow it up!) We are less than a quarter of the way through these cuts. We can expect austerity long into the future. A future Labour govt. has said it will not reverse these austerity cuts and will carry through the austerity cuts themselves. These cuts are permanent! Don't believe the propoganda, we haven't been having it 'too good'. Inflation adjusted wages have been falling for over 10 years in the UK. The greed of the super rich and the inability of the profit driven capitalist system to move society forwards is what caused this mess. Don't make ordinary working and middle class people pay. Make the billionairs pay!

    |   -1

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