‘A mutual is not a mutual when it is based on a divided workforce!

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(Cllr Ian Ward, Deputy Leader of Birmingham City Council answering public questions at the Council meeting on 2nd December 2014)

Library campaigners yesterday asked the Deputy Leader of the Council to endorse the principles set out by the TUC and Co-operative England for setting up public service mutuals.

Public questions at yesterday’s Council meeting were focused on the proposed Library mutual which is due to take over the running of Birmingham’s Community libraries from 31st March 2015.

In a public question to Councillor Ian Ward specific reassurances were sought over the protection of the terms and conditions of present and future library staff and that all staff are balloted before a decision to establish the mutual.

Cllr Ian Ward merely responded that the Council would carefully review the guidance and discuss it with the Trade Unions.

Friends of the Libraries of Birmingham insist that the agreement of the staff to join the mutual is a foundation principle for establishing a staff mutual.

A spokesperson for the campaign said the forthcoming Business Plan of the Library mutual must be scrutinised by the Cabinet to ensure that it is does not save costs at the expense of the terms of employment of workers to be employed by the mutual.

They said ‘a mutual is not a mutual when it is based on a permanently divided and unequal workforce.’

The guidance from the TUC and Co-operatives UK states that ‘Mutuals and co-operatives providing public services should avoid seeking competitive advantage or short term efficiency gains through the depression of workforce pay, terms and conditions.’

Concerns have developed about the Council’s approach to mutualisation when it emerged that care workers to be employed by a mutual to run social care services would not recieve a local government pension.

The proposals to transfer specialist adult social care services, currently provided by the City Council, into a Mutually Owned Social Enterprise (MOSE) include the future introduction of a two tier workforce.

At the November meeting of the Health and Social Care Scrutiny Committee the officer leading the move to the MOSE stated ‘Post TUPE there are no plans to change Terms and Conditions of existing workers.

We are talking about the new workforce, they will be on lower terms and conditions, they won’t be part of local Government Pension scheme, they will be on living wage plus.

‘We cant compete in the market with private Home Care providers who have costs of circa £11-12 per hour. Our cost of employing someone is 30-40% extra with a pension scheme. 

We need to compete in the market for Home care but in the future but we need to look at living wage pay rates.’

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