Transport jobs row

PROTESTING: Mr Cretney runs the gauntlet as transport workers petition vistors to the Steam Railway's Love Train

PROTESTING: Mr Cretney runs the gauntlet as transport workers petition vistors to the Steam Railway's Love Train

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THE minister in charge of the department looking into the possibility of making 22 public transport staff redundant over the next two years has said he hopes another solution can be found.

Speaking during a heated exchange in Tynwald, Community, Culture and Leisure Minister David Cretney MHK denied he had strayed from government policy on redundancy and vowed to do all he could to find an alternative to forcing those involved into unemployment.

He said redundancy was the ‘worst case situation’.

Bill Henderson (Douglas North) tabled 19 questions for Mr Cretney and Chief Minister Tony Brown on the issue.

Mr Cretney, who was chairman of the Manx Labour Party from 1987 to 1991, explained a review of his department carried out before he took over the reins last year showed the need to save money through reductions in staffing. It was thought that this could be done through natural wastage over three years. He disagreed with Mr Henderson’s belief that staff should have been told about this.

When budget constraints became tighter, he ‘reluctantly agreed’ to bring forward the third year of the restructuring programme to meet targets.

This meant looking at how to reduce staffing by 11 posts this year and next. Mr Cretney said he was committed to talking to the 32 staff concerned and the unions to look at ways of avoiding compulsory redundancy.

But Mr Henderson was determined the issue of redundancy should be taken off the table altogether and other options considered.

The Chief Minister refused Mr Henderson’s call for a moratorium and also said he had full confidence that Mr Cretney and his department were following government policy, which requires departments to look at all other options – including early retirement packages and redeployment – before redundancy. He said that if Mr Henderson could provide evidence the DCCL had strayed from that policy then he would look into it.

Mr Cretney said he had no intention of closing down the Steam and Electric Railways. He admitted overtime could be cut back, saying £3,234,840 had been spent on overtime in the DCCL in the last two years. Mr Cretney strongly denied the workers were being sacrificed by DCCL management who wanted to save their own jobs. He said he had spoken to his officers to ensure the management structure was appropriate on several occasions but said that, in the interests of transparency, he had commissioned an independent review on the subject.

Questions for written answer saw Mr Cretney explaining that employees across his department had been affected by staffing changes in the last year, including at the Villa Marina and Gaiety Theatre complex where seven posts have become vacant due to natural wastage and remained unfilled.

Mr Henderson was told 34 consultants and contractors had been employed by the DCCL in the transport section over the last two years, at a cost of £3,167,176. Mr Cretney also told Mr Henderson that 10 of the staff affected by possible cuts had worked in the department for 10 years or fewer; 10 for between 10 and 20 years; five for between 20 and 30 years; and seven for between 31 and 42 years.

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