Headlines: September 22nd, 2005

Britain’s leading public service union is claiming that local government employees worked the equivalent of 7million days overtime last year without being paid for it or given time off in lieu. A survey of almost 4,000 members of UNISON working for local authorities found that a third said they worked unpaid overtime each week, averaging an extra 4.6 hours.The survey was carried out for the union by MORI and UNISON says it reflects a workforce under increasing pressure, with 59 per cent of those questioned saying they had considered leaving their jobs in the last six months and almost three-quarters of those respondents feeling undervalued by their employers.

The study shows that staffing levels are continuing to fall with a fifth of the members in the survey reporting almost daily staff shortages and 30 per cent talking about the increased use of temporary staff. In answer to a question about staff shortages in their working areas or departments in the last year, almost eight in ten members said this was the case, compared to 76 per cent in 2001 and 73 per cent a year earlier.

The survey also supports the findings of the Chartered Management Institute, which earlier this week reported more bullying in the public sector than elsewhere. The UNISON survey says four out ten council employees had experienced verbal abuse by service users and 16 per cent reported bullying by their managers.

Pensions and pay are the local government workers’ greatest areas for concern with more than three-quarters of respondents recording worries about the Government’s proposed changes to the Local Government Pension Scheme.

Heather Wakefield, UNISON’s Head of Local Government, said, “Pension fears and dissatisfaction with pay are running high, while staff shortages and lack of recognition for the work they do can only add to the serious recruitment and retention problems facing councils.”