Glasgow City Council is set to slash another £103m off its budget – and vital services are feeling the strain, writes ZOE STREATFIELD
WORKERS from Glasgow’s public-service unions will rally today against the city council’s plan to slash its budget by £103 million over the next two years.
The cut is just the latest in a series that has lopped a staggering £250m of the city’s spending since 2010.
Local services will be trashed as thousands of front-line staff lose their jobs.
Already workers in Glasgow’s disability services, mental health services, school support staff and refuse workers are being pressed hard to meet targets with far fewer resources and staff.
So far 4,000 jobs have gone, with another 3,000 set for the chop by 2017.
GMB Scotland, which organises the city’s refuse workers, says the cuts spell disaster, particularly for young people looking for work in the city.
Refuse workers’ morale is in the gutter, while stress and sickness have piled up to become the highest among council staff.
GMB organiser Benny Rankin says that “staff are expected to work longer hours to cover the same work patterns with fewer staff and equipment which is often not fit for purpose.”
Glasgow is a tenement city and bins are kept out in the back courts, meaning that refuse collectors have to go through the buildings and up and down stairs into the back gardens to collect the bins.
“Refuse workers are some of the lowest-paid council employees and GMB are concerned that workers who are no longer capable of doing 100 per cent of the duties are being downgraded to lower pay, regardless of how many years’ service they have given, in an attempt to save the council money,” says Rankin.
There are fears that bosses are abusing attendance and sickness policies in order to downgrade workers and lay them off.
But attacks on vital services don’t just affect workers — the public is suffering too.
Glasgow has some of the best public parks and gardens in Britain, including Pollok Park, which houses the Burrell Collection and was recently voted Europe’s best park.
Yet without properly funded council services, they are becoming havens for pests. Last year duck-feeding in Queen’s Park was banned, with a £50 fine attached, for fear of an increase in the number of rats.
Glasgow still has a significant drug problem and more than a million needles were handed out last year. Unfortunately these needles often end up in public places such as parks and toilets, and in some cases it has taken days for trained staff to respond due to cutbacks.
As a result Glasgow’s parks “are becoming unsafe for your pets let alone your children,” Rankin says.
Workers are calling on the SNP Scottish government to make more funds available to the Labour-run council, fearing that the situation is fast becoming a political football between the two parties.
GMB makes clear that Glasgow City Council is also at fault, having cut services to the bone without offering any sort of resistance or leadership against the cuts.
GMB has written to Deputy First Minister John Swinney and council leader Frank McAveety but has not received an adequate response from either of them.
The council also appointed a £100,000-a-year senior manager in the land and environment department despite the deep funding crisis. Rankin says the decision was made by top bosses “who have no idea what it’s like to work in front-line services.”
The unions were told of this decision without consultation and believe the post is unnecessary, Rankin says.
Meanwhile, 35 apprentices who trained with the council can’t get full-time work and are stuck on four-week temporary contracts.
Glasgow is a city to be proud of. It has a reputation for being the “friendliest city in the world” and millions of tourists come here each year to see its beautiful architecture, museums, parks and its vibrant arts and music scene.
It’s also a city with a proud history of working-class struggle and it is time we stand shoulder to shoulder with workers, families and local communities to defend jobs and services.
Today’s rally will take place outside Glasgow City Chambers at 12.30pm and is supported by GMB, Unite, Unison, Ucatt and EIS.