Unions demand more information over £2m janitor savings

Unison Scotland's Johanna Baxter told councillors unions had not been adequately consulted
Unison Scotland's Johanna Baxter told councillors unions had not been adequately consulted

Janitors in schools across North Lanarkshire will be hit with a £2 million spending cut after councillors agreed to measures already included in the local authority budget.

Delegates from three trade unions – the GMB, Unite and Unison – were present to speak on behalf of their members at North Lanarkshire Council’s Transformation and Digitalisation Committee.

The delegates warned that further negotiation was required before the cost-saving measures, which will end longstanding contractual overtime arrangements.

Johanna Baxter, Unison Scotland’s head of local government bargaining, said: “Unions have not been adequately consulted over the decision and further negotiation on pay scales and job descriptions are needed before we would have anything to recommend to our members.

“We will not agree to this without further discussions.”

The union representatives were supported by the SNP group, which submitted an amendment which said that although they accepted the need for a reform of the Facility Support service which employs janitors, they wanted the council to reject any further implementation of the proposed actions.

Union representatives and SNP councillors also said that the change would mean janitorial staff, some of the lowest earners in the council’s employ, would lose earnings as a regrading of pay scales would not compensate for the lost overtime.

Councillors, who supported the proposals, included the Labour and Conservative groups, who said that years of austerity – which have seen the council lose £260m in funding over the past decade – necessitated changes which were nonetheless difficult and controversial.

Terms and conditions for many janitorial staff, they claimed, predated North Lanarkshire Council with Councillor Tommy Morgan saying that overtime arrangements were drawn up when schools relied on fossil fuel-based heating systems which were more time consuming to operate.

Committee convener Councillor Kenneth Duffy said: “We understand that this has been a contentious issue, with a lot of misinformation being presented particularly on social media.

“However, this is a big step forward for our schools and janitors. There is no doubt that the work our janitors do is invaluable to the overall school experience and the implementation of this review will mean all schools can benefit from a modern, comprehensive service.

“While there will be an overall reduction in the number of janitorial staff across North Lanarkshire, janitors themselves have a more enhanced role and, consequently, better basic pay. And, of course, the council is committed to there being no compulsory redundancies. There will be better careers for staff with clear development and progression available.

“This team approach also gives janitors more flexibility to deal with things like evening lets, ensuring that schools can be much more flexible to the needs of communities.

“There has already been extensive communication and dialogue with staff and trade unions throughout the review and that will continue as the findings are implemented.”

The proposals were approved by 14 votes to nine.

Neil McGrory - Local Democracy Reporting Service