EU Settlement Scheme – 50 days left to apply

On Tuesday 11 May, there will be only 50 days to go until the deadline of 30 June 2021 for applications to be made to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS).

The 50 day milestone is an important opportunity for us to work together to bring the fast-approaching deadline to the attention of your eligible EU employees.

All EU, EEA and Swiss citizens and their family members who were resident in the UK by 31 December 2020, should apply without delay so that they can continue to work, study, and access free healthcare and benefits in the UK after 30 June 2021. 

As an employer it is not your responsibility to make sure your EU employees have applied, but you can play a role by reminding them of the approaching deadline and cascading the information in the employer toolkit available on GOV.UK. 

You will not need to carry out retrospective Right to Work Checks on existing employees after the 30 June 2021 deadline. However, from 1 July, new EU, EEA and Swiss employees that you hire will need to demonstrate their right to work either with the pre-settled or settled status, or with a visa under the points-based immigration system.

Please note, the above communication is a message from CEC HR we are disseminating in order to assist our members. Anyone who has concerns over their status should immediately contact their line manager and/or HR. You may also contact a rep if you wish.

VERA: is it worth it?

Recently the council initiated another VERA scheme and sent letters to, we believe, thousands of workers at grades 6, 7 and 8.

Unions have had scant information on this VERA roll-out and Unite has major concerns over the impact on workers and the services they provide.

VERA is a very blunt tool that bribes people to leave the council and enables the council to save some money over a few years. It drains services of knowledge and skills and puts the health and wellbeing of the remaining workers at risk as well as endangering the services they provide and, potentially, even the public they serve.

The current scheme was initiated back in October last year when the council agreed to use around £15 million of reserves to fund it. We produced a press release criticising it at the time it was announced (the same day as the council unveiled the Edinburgh Poverty Commission report) and a senior officer response was simply to suggest we were wrong. The October/November release of VERA focussed on grades 9+, our criticism was that this would eventually affect all staff. We now see that plan being almost fully hatched.

We are very concerned that the current direction the council is taking could lead to services being outsourced (despite the council pledge in favour of in-house service provision). Acts of this nature can only be described as economic vandalism as outsourcing of services all too often means that workers are paid less (if they have a job at all) and spend less in the local economy, and profits from the outsourced contracts are ex-patriated well beyond the city boundaries. Furthermore, we know that outsourcing provides no real solution to the problem of Local Government underfunding as, at best, it only provides a short term budget saving that is bounced from budget to budget and usually ends up costing more in the long run.

Many of us can remember the chaos of the transformation programme in 2016 and 2017. The prelude to that series of cuts was a VERA roll-out. Overall, several thousand workers left the council between late 2015 and 2018 and the council has never fully recovered from that period with absence, stress, apathy and fear going through the roof, at least until coronavirus hit us. Now, many of those workers who have kept our city going through the pandemic will have a few crumbs thrown at them in a bid to save some money that has scant regard for workers’ wellbeing or the services they deliver.

Some of those taking VERA may be lucky enough to find another job and we wish them well. However, in a very sketchy economic climate (think: CoViD and Brexit) where decent job opportunities are likely to be few and far between, we worry about those who may end up regretting leaving an employer that, despite all its problems, is still one of the better places to work in our region.

Contact a rep if you are considering VERA options

Recent Pay Increase

Some members (grades 1-3 and start of grade 4) may have noticed a small increase in their wages, paid on 28th April 2021. This increase is an outcome of the consolidation of the Scottish Local Government Living Wage (SLGLW) into the City of Edinburgh Council’s (CEC) pay and grading structure.

CEC have claimed that some 4400 workers will have received an improvement to their take home pay as a consequence of the consolidation and that CEC’s Gender Pay Gap has been improved. Whilst we do not dispute these claims we feel that an opportunity to significantly improve take home pay for those whose wages are lower than average in Edinburgh and thereby tackle in-work poverty and the Gender Pay Gap better has been missed. The average pay increase for the 4400 workers is about 21 pence per hour.

Unite CEC branch presented a proposal to CEC that would have seen more than 6000 workers (covering grades 1-4 and start of grade 5) experience a pay increase of an average £1 per hour and had a much greater impact on the Gender Pay Gap and in-work poverty. Our proposal would have seen significant pay increases for Care Workers, Caterers, Clerical and Admin workers, Cleaners and Pupil Support Workers (the vast majority of whom are female) as well as most Janitors, Refuse Collectors and Street Cleaners. However, our proposal was rejected on the grounds that it cost too much.

What cost is poverty?

Our Council, our employer, has adopted the Edinburgh Poverty Commission’s plan to End Poverty in Edinburgh by 2030 and it seems, to us, that increasing the pay of 6000+ of our lower paid workers by £1 per hour contributes more to the plan than improving pay to 4400 by 21p per hour. However, members should judge this for themselves.

The image above shows the differences between, the previous pay for grades 1-4 (the SLGLW was paid as a subsidy or addition to wages until 31/3/21), the new pay for grades 1-4 (Grade 1 is now £9.47, 13p above the current SLGLW of £9.34ph), Unite CEC branch proposal (with Grade 1 starting at £10.04 ph, 70p per hour more than SLGLW) that was rejected.

Please note that this has no connection to the current pay claim or the Scottish Government’s £500