COUNCIL workers have been told their pay is to be cut.
Thousands of Kirklees Council workers received letters this week about a new pay system, and it’s bad news for some.
The “single status” reorganisation aims to protect the council against future discrimination claims. But angry staff have contacted the Examiner after learning they could be in line for wage cuts of up to 17%.
At the moment the full extent of the affected numbers is unclear.
But Dave Grime, who has worked for the council’s highways department since 1990, has received a letter saying his pay would be cut from £27,594 to £26,067 in June.
The 62-year-old from Holmfirth is now thinking about retiring.
His wife Jean said: “It means we will probably have to sell our house and move to a smaller place because of the increasing cost of living.
“Some people are going to lose £5,000 a year by being downgraded. They’re traumatised by this.”
Mr Grime has been informed that his pay will be cut from June unless he takes on more responsibility.
Mrs Grime said: “He’s been told he can win his salary back if he dives through hoops and moves from being a supervisor to more of a manager. But he’s too old for that and now he’s talking about early retirement.
“What’s going to happen to council services when experienced people like him leave?”
Paul Williamson’s wife also works for the council’s highways department. She is facing an even greater pay cut.
Paul said: “She got a letter on Monday saying she was being moved down from grade four to grade two.
She’s going from £17,000 a year to £14,000 – that’s nearly 20%. It’s a hell of a shock.”
The Huddersfield man added: “The letter contained no justification for the cut, and no information about any appeal process.”
Paul said he and his wife, who he asked not to be named, would have to make sacrifices as a result.
He said: “You build your life around your current earnings so a £3,000 reduction makes a big difference. It will mean a big lifestyle change.
“I think it will have an impact on us taking holidays and we will not be able to put as much money aside.”
Council leader Clr Robert Light said Kirklees was trying to do its best for its workers.
He said: “I think everyone understands that this process, which has been carried out in every council in the country, has been complex.
“We are working with the trade unions to tackle this difficult situation in a reasonable way.
“Inevitably there will be losers as well as those who gain and we appreciate the concerns of staff.”
Kirklees Unison secretary Paul Holmes represents 8,500 of the 11,000 workers affected by the pay review.
He said that no worker, whether a union member or not, would be forced to work for lower pay if they accepted change.
Mr Holmes said: “I can guarantee they will not lose any money.”
He explained that every worker whose rate of pay had been downgraded would be offered four options instead of taking the pay cut.
Mr Holmes said: “They can avoid a wage reduction by taking on more duties, asking to be redeployed, seeking a compensation payment or taking severance.
“The option of not losing money is always available.”
And Mr Holmes added that all workers would also be able to appeal against downgrading.
He said: “They have an appeal right which hasn’t started yet and which will take at least a year.
“Our members know what is and isn’t the case about the appeal, but non-union members are panicking.”
A Kirklees Council spokesman explained that the wage changes were part of a national reorganisation.
He said: “All councils are required to develop single status arrangements for their workforce to remove unfairness in the pay and conditions of local government employees.
“Over the last two years a cross-section of employees completed job evaluation questionnaires. As a result of these a new pay and grading system has been developed for all employees.
“We have closely involved the trade unions in this process and letters have been sent to all staff.”
The spokesman added that there are a number of possible outcomes.
He said: “This could mean pay being unaffected, a higher grading being assigned, jobs being redesigned, services being restructured or jobs being changed.
“No-one’s existing salary will be reduced while these changes are being worked through and developed.”