Scotland

Councils and unions deny public sector jobs deal

Scotland's councils and trade unions have denied that a deal has been struck to rule out compulsory redundancies in the public sector.

It follows reports that an agreement between the Scottish Government, councils and unions was close.

The deal would have been in return for pay constraints and other cost-cutting measures.

But unions seeking more assurances over the deal accused the Scottish government of "jumping the gun".

And local authority group Cosla said it could not guarantee there would be no compulsory redundancies.

Scottish ministers believe a deal can take them a long way towards achieving essential savings in the public sector, without forcing workers out of jobs.

The framework agreement stresses that protecting jobs and avoiding compulsory redundancies would be given paramount importance, as long as unions respond with flexibility on working practices which generate "significant paybill savings".

But Grahame Smith, general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, said: "The Scottish government is guilty of jumping the gun and it is not helpful to have discussions of this nature played out in the media.

"The STUC has been open at all stages to reaching an understanding on no compulsory redundancies, but, as things stand, we are not 'close' to agreement."

Mr Smith went on to say it was "far from clear" that the government and Cosla were on the same page over the definition of maintaining staff numbers and the extent of the guarantee over compulsory redundancies.

He added: "An additional problem is that this objective does not match with the experience of union negotiators and our wider membership in how on-going negotiations are currently being approached by public sector employers.

"This makes it difficult to see how the trust needed to make any agreement work can be achieved."

A Cosla spokesman said compulsory redundancy was always a last resort, but added: "The bottom line is that Scotland's councils cannot say that there will be no compulsory redundancies, because the hard financial facts are that there is not enough money in the system to keep staffing at current levels."

Cosla said it had discussed the issue with government and the unions several times, adding: "On all of these occasions, we have made it crystal clear that the overall head count within our workforce will have to go down because of the financial situation we are in, and that councils cannot give any guarantees unless there is more money on the table."

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