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Sion Simon offers mayoral olive branch to sceptical union leaders

Sion Simon offers mayoral olive branch to sceptical union leaders

🕔19.Apr 2012

Sion Simon will promise city council trade unions a “new age of partnership working” if he becomes the elected mayor of Birmingham.

In a speech to Birmingham Trades Council, Mr Simon will pledge to mend the fractious relationship between union members and council leaders since 2004 that has prompted protests over a range of issues including a pay and grading review and the removal of bonuses for blue collar workers.

The scrapping of a 50-year-old bonus system left some workers more than £5,000-a-year out of pocket and resulted in strike action by refuse collectors.

Mr Simon, who hopes to win the Labour Party nomination to run for mayor, is also expected to give further details of his “Buy Brummie” campaign which would safeguard jobs by committing the council to purchase goods and services from local firms whenever possible.

In his speech, Mr Simon will say: “Nearly 50,000 people work for Birmingham City Council – the largest unitary local authority in the EU. Ensuring harmonious industrial relations is a key responsibility for an elected mayor.

“Without the active support of employees and their trade unions it is difficult to see how any mayor will be able to make a real difference to the city.

“With their support, anything is possible.”

He will tell his audience that his pledge to “Buy Brummie” offers a new way of running the council designed to ensure “a bigger bang for every Brummie buck”.

Mr Simon will say: “The city council spends in the region of three and a half billion pounds a year. Ensuring that budget is used to benefit people in the city is one of my top concerns.

“We need to see the council’s procurement processes focus on supporting growth, jobs, apprenticeships, training and prosperity here in the city.

“And all suppliers to the council need to help contribute to attempts to reduce our appalling problems of high unemployment and low skills.”

He will also hit out at an attempt by the council’s private sector IT operators Service Birmingham to offshore jobs to India, a proposal that caused a major political row and was only dropped after pressure from the city’s Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition.

Mr Simon will say: “There is simply no justification for any further attempts to offshore jobs which the council taxpayers of the city are paying for. Instead we need to see a bigger bang for every Brummie buck the council spends, generating and maintaining prosperity here in the city”.

Although clearly offering an olive branch, Mr Simon seems unlikely to convince the Trades Council to change its bullish anti-mayor stance.

In a leaflet advertising a debate between the yes and no campaigns, the Trades Council warns union members not to be “taken in” by the Government’s apparent support for elected mayors.

The warning continues: “The Government’s aim is to strike a further devastating blow to what remains of local democracy. The Localism Act dictatorial powers to the elected mayor, who is:

  • In office for four years and cannot be unseated by a vote of council members.
  • Appoints the Cabinet.
  • Holds all the reins of council power to make policy
  • Cannot be overruled by the council unless at least two-thirds of councillors vote against.

The role of councillors would be reduced to casework, unable to influence, let alone decide, council policy -powerless to stop cuts in services even if they want to.


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