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