BUS cleaners have been earning up to £52,000 a year including overtime – almost as much as a government Minister.
Details of the astonishing take-home pay awarded to Bus Vannin cleaners and fuellers emerged as the government announced it was planning changes to bring half the government workforce under a single employing authority.
It’s a move that will see the creation of a Public Services Commission to replace the Civil Service Commission and the Whitley Council pay negotiating body for manual workers.
Chief Minister Allan Bell described the existing government employment structure as ‘not fit for purpose’. He said streamlining it was the next step towards ‘harmonising’ terms and conditions and ‘modernising’ collective bargaining arrangements.
The take home pay of the four cleaners and fuellers employed at the state-run bus operator is an example of the type of settlements agreed between management and unions when public sector finances were in better order.
There had originally been six staff doing this job but their numbers have been reduced as the size of the bus fleet has been cut. There are currently four who have been working long hours of overtime to cover duties rostered for six.
Their basic pay is just over £25,000. But at least one has been earning about £52,000 a year including overtime, it is understood. In contrast, a government Minister earns £56,733 – that’s a basic salary of £37,822 plus a 50 per cent uplift as a cabinet member.
Community, Culture and Leisure Minister Graham Cregeen described the situation as an ‘anomaly’. ‘There is one who gets paid £52,000. They don’t all earn that sort of money. They work phenomenal hours. Government is partly responsible for this mess. These staff are working their terms and conditions that were negotiated by the unions. It’s just an unfortunate situation we’ve been put in.’
DCCL chief executive Nick Black said the fueller/cleaners at Douglas worked on a roster that is set for six posts.
‘Each staff member has the right to a day’s overtime a week. The rate of pay is set as a proportion of that of the bus fitter rate and currently gives a basic annual pay of £25,031 if the overtime is not requested.
‘For much of last year there were fewer than four staff on the roster so those remaining worked additional hours to provide the services needed. This was why a small number of staff were able to earn much more than the basic rate of pay - the hours did need to be worked to keep the buses on the road and the staff who volunteered to work the additional hours were paid for those hours according to their contract.’
He added: ‘The department is very close to finalising negotiations that will see the fueller/cleaner duties concentrated on fuelling, vehicle checks and essential cleaning between services.
‘Deep cleaning will then be done on contract on a planned cycle. This will allow significant savings, which will increase in future as new terms and conditions and rates of pay will be put in place for new starters. Negotiations with staff representatives have been in progress for 18 months.’
Bus Vannin drivers, currently in dispute over changes to their terms and conditions, are paid an average of between £30,000 and £45,000, including overtime. Their basic pay is £27,000.
The Chief Minister said: ‘We’ve been concerned about the disjointed structure across government in dealing with employee/employer relations, in particular the great disparity in terms and conditions across the workforce which from time to time had caused difficulties. I feel strongly that the structure we have at the moment is not fit for purpose.’
He said there was a recognition that Whitley Council ‘in the context of modern industrial relations is an anachronism’. He said similar bodies in the UK had all been disbanded and the Isle of Man was now the only place in the British Isles which still has such an arrangement.
An independent review of the Whitley Council carried out in 2009 condemned proceedings as ‘bullying, confrontational and reminiscent of 1970s industrial relations’ and found bargaining arrangements as significantly weighted in favour of the employees’ side.
At present all civil servants are employed by the Civil Service Commission. Manual and craft workers are employed by their departments or boards, but under terms and conditions set by the Whitley Council, which is a joint employer/union negotiating forum.
The proposed Public Services Commission which would bring together civil servants and manual/craft workers - about 4,000 staff in total - under one employing authority.
Other government employees such as teachers, police, firemen and health professionals would continue to have their pay negotiated via UK bodies.
There will be a six-week public consultation on the proposal with a view to legislative drafting instructions being ready by the end of July for the Council of Ministers to consider.
Mr Bell said: ‘A Public Services Commission would facilitate simplification of employment structures, the harmonisation of terms and conditions and enhance our ability to redeploy staff to meet government’s priorities and changing circumstances. It would also provide the opportunity to both streamline and modernise collective bargaining arrangements.’
The Chief Minister said a lot of work had gone into improving human resources management in government and it was now ‘entirely appropriate’ to look at the employment structures themselves. He stressed there were no recommendations for changes to terms and conditions. An exercise to review terms and conditions is already underway, in most cases with the full co-operation of the unions, Mr Bell said.
He said described the current bus drivers’ dispute as ‘very unfortunate’ and in part reflected weaknesses in pay negotiations in the past. ‘It should never have come to this point,’ he added.
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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