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UNISON members at the Vine taking part in N30 pensions strikes

We have recieved this from a UNISON rep working for Leeds City Council. We would be interesting from hearing from other groups of public sector workers about how the cuts and impacting them and the services they provide.

Members at Vine say NO to further cuts to the service!

Vine is specialist education provision for young adults with severe and complex learning difficulties between the ages of 19 to 25. The majority of its Unison members are women working part-time as Learning Support Assistants (LSA’s) and since the beginning of the economic downturn in 2008 have seen the service contract and deteriorate.

Over the last year we have seen valued staff leave due to the pressures of cutbacks. The service cannot take on extra staff due to the employment freeze that has compounded to the difficulties of running an already stretched service.

It is hoped that some ELI leavers will be replaced but with agency staff that will cost more! Indeed, the £90m 1st round of budget cuts of 2011 has impacted greatly to such a small service like ours. The most recent takers of ELI were ‘encouraged’ to leave earlier than they would have probably liked in order for Vine to achieve its 20% target in savings to the Council.

Members have less time to support students (service users) as class sizes have increased. A stretched and tired workforce increases the risk of incidents and sickness issues.

Cut to the Bone

Since employed by the Council, working for the Vine service from 2007, I have seen our service cut to the bare bones. Evening classes at the Blenheim Centre went, as did our City bases. This meant that staff either left or were redeployed to our main bases, both at Blenheim and the West Leeds site.

Over the summer 2011, the West Leeds base was vandalised as a result of a failure to maintain the building and its security which in effect prematurely lead Vine West to join our colleagues at the Blenheim Centre – another building that is not fit for purpose, but where the service is in the process of moving out at an estimated cost of £220k plus to Becketts Park by April.

What our members worry about is the future of the service. The student’s funding is provided by Leeds City Colleges via the Young Peoples’ Learning Agency (YPLA) through accredited learning but there is a question mark as to how many students will be funded this way and how much will be provided by our own employer to keep our members in jobs in view of the next round of budget cuts. Overall it is predicted that Leeds City Council is to cut another £55m from its 2012-13 budget that may translate in up to 600 jobs to go!

Pay & Grading the Last Straw

Since the pay & grading exercise was carried out our members at Vine lost out in the re-evaluation of our jobs as it failed to account for the ‘Special Needs Allowance’ for the purpose of the personal care to the students we provide.

Although we qualified for the three-year pay protection that ran out in February 2011, and with no decent national pay increase in years, our members have really felt the pinch. We are angry after years of trying to resolve the issue we have heard nothing. This is an issue we are really prepared to take action over.

Our staff enjoy providing the care and attention our students need to ensure they enjoy being with us. This is our livelihood but our members are exhausted.

We say enough is enough! No more cuts! Fair Pay NOW!