NEGOTIATIONS MAKING PROGRESS: BUT – “SHOW ME THE MONEY”
Yesterday there was a very important meeting between the leader of the council, Susan Aitken, council officers and representatives of the trade unions.
It is fair to say that significant progress was made, and SA gave a number of important commitments including using the 2019 methodology to settle all claims; to discuss with officers removing current barriers to settlement (the ALEOs and the new jobs) and; to have political oversight.
She promised to put all this in writing before the end of the week. If this is done it is likely to meet the Unions strike demands.
There were other significant statements made. The most important of these was that the council wants to resolve all the claims at once up to the implementation of the job evaluation study. The primary reason for this is that the council does not believe that it can “go to market” to fund settlements for a third time so they need to get it right this time. We would welcome this if it was possible.
The SNP in Holyrood have so far refused to fund the settlement from central funds and have also refused to give the council “permission to borrow”. That is very disappointing.
Unfortunately, there was also a rather discordant note from the Head of Finance. He was not willing to commit to finding the sums which I suggested to him were needed. My view is that with the number of claims now lodged and a gap period of 6 years (2018 to 2024 ) based on the 2019 methodology, and the cost of the pre 2018 claims, the amount needed is between £350 and £400m. Admittedly this is only my rough estimate and I might be wrong but the Finance guy was only prepared to indicate they were looking for more than £100m. There is a huge hole between those numbers.
He also said that whatever the figure he can raise is, that will be the figure they will be able to offer.
Now this statement is not consistent with the promises made by Susan Aitken. Applying the 2019 methodology is a straightforward mathematical calculation. We only need the list of relevant claimants and their wages.
The council seems to think that if they give us a number, we will simply divide that up amongst the claimants and that’s what we did last time. First that is not what we did last time. Second, we now have an agreed formula which makes the position completely different to 2019 when we were negotiating from scratch.
We need to be clear – we would not accept this approach. Just being given a number and dividing up is not going to happen.
I have to say that this worries me a lot. It feels like we are so close but yet so far. Until they SHOW ME THE MONEY, I’m not convinced we will reach agreement. I also think that once the election is over the councillors will stop being so keen to resolve matters.
The more positive news is that the council are still hoping that they will have the money in before October. I think this is optimistic – there was a delay over of 3 months last time due to delays in finishing their legal finance documents. They say they are better prepared and more experienced this time. I hope so.
So positive noises made. Hopes are raised but now they need to deliver.
We now await the formal letter from the Leader’s office which should happen Wednesday or Thursday. The unions will then review the position to decide what to do about the strike.
We have another legal sub group meeting arranged for Friday when we hope there will be flesh put on these bones.
I should say this might just be my normal pessimism and the finance guys caution making a nasty cocktail. What Susan Aitken said was encouraging but what he said was much less so.
Anyway it looks like its going to be a busy few weeks.
Ps Lucy B is doing ok. She was able to spend the weekend out of hospital but is back in during the week. Karl hopes he can get her back home more often, not least as the hospital bed they’ve given him is a back killer apparently. Thoughts and prayers to them as always.