Employees fill temporary gaps in other departments to avoid redundancy
Council housing staff forced to job swap
Housing staff at Birmingham Council could find themselves turning librarian or receptionist for the day as the council looks to save money on personnel costs.
As part of plans to reduce the 24,000 council workforce (excluding school staff) by 25 per cent by 2013, housing employees will be required to fill in for staff shortages in different job roles.
Around 4,800 staff have left the organisation since April 2009, 46 per cent of whom left through either compulsory or voluntary redundancies. A further 1,144 staff are expected to leave in 2012/13, according to the council’s latest business plan, which was published this week.
Around 200 of the redundancies planned over the next three years are expected to come from the housing department. However, the council hopes to mitigate the number of cuts by getting housing staff to fill in where there are shortages on any particular day, across most council directorates.
Unions warned the move would lead to a dip in service standards.
Tony Rabaiotti, regional manager for Unison West Midlands, said: ‘What the council is relying on is the so called “Birmingham contract” where they move people around at the drop of a hat. If one person is off sick on any given day, someone from another department will be called to step in for them. In practice this will only result in a worse service for everyone.’
A spokesperson for Birmingham Council said services would improve. ‘Our “people strategy” in the council is underpinned by the Birmingham Contract which means competent staff in comparable grades with transferable skills have the opportunity to move around the council ensuring that experienced and knowledgeable staff are retained.
‘Using vacancies and redeploying staff in “at risk services” such as private sector renewal has meant the avoidance of many compulsory redundancies.’
She added that senior management roles have been ‘dramatically reduced to preserve jobs in front line services such as estate-based staff, housing officers and neighbourhood staff’.