Echoes of the Thatcher era… nothing really changes.
Scores of jobs to go at South Tyneside shipyard
Fifty-eight jobs are to be axed at a South Tyneside shipyard.
The workers are set to go at A&P Tyne, on the Wagonway Road Industrial Estate, Hebburn, as the company says it is trying to “respond to peaks and troughs in demand”.
A company spokesman said consultation over the job losses had now been launched with trade union representatives.
The news comes just months after the business, which specialises in the design, fabrication, installation and commissioning of seabed-to-surface projects, successfully completed part of a £60m aircraft carrier contract for the Ministry of Defence.
Management, office and supervisor levels have also been advised their jobs are at risk, according to a source, although the jobs of welders and platers are said to be safe.
A spokesman for the company said:
“A&P Tyne has entered into a period of consultation during which it will review the number of people employed at its site in Hebburn.
“The reduction in workforce is part of a restructure at A&P Tyne that will enable the business to remain competitive in a challenging, global marketplace.
“A&P Tyne needs to respond to peaks and troughs in demand.”
“Ship repair work is subject to fluctuation and the restructuring will ensure that staffing costs adjust to tally with fluctuating ship repair income, to secure the future viability of the yard. Consultations are being undertaken with trade union and elected employee representatives.
“Fifty-eight roles have been put forward for redundancy, but final numbers will not be reached until the end of the 30-ay consultation period.”
Less than a fortnight ago, Jarrow’s Labour Parliamentary candidate Stephen Hepburn, alongside Vernon Coaker, his party’s shadow defence secretary, visited A&P to see at first hand the work being carried out there.
At the time, Andy Shaw, A&P’s group managing director, said was able to highlight to his guests his company’s success in rapidly turning around contracts.
“The future of the defence sector is hugely important to A&P Group, given that we continue to deliver multi-million pound contracts for the Ministry of Defence and see this as a growth area across the group going forward.
“We are contracted across a broad range of defence projects including the MoD Aircraft Carrier build programme, the Astute Class Nuclear Submarine programme and through-life support of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.”
It is believed all the workers to be made redundant will be off-site by the beginning of June.
Source – Shields Gazette, 01 May 2015
A major jobs cull is on the horizon at a North East probation service as machines look set to replace some functions carried out by staff.
The Northumbria Community Rehabilitation Company (NCRC), which is run by the French catering company Sodexo, is set to shed 131 jobs (around 30% of its workforce) as chiefs look to cut costs.
Unions have slammed the plans, which have emerged in the wake of a divisive privatisation programme, as “downright dangerous”.
It comes as Sodexo plans to install ATM-style kiosks which would allow offenders to report to services without having to meet an officer.
The move to “biometric reporting” would see an offender’s identity checked using fingerprint technology.
A face-to-face meeting could then be requested by the offender.
It is also thought that low-risk offenders may in future be monitored via a call centre under the plans, which Sodexo insists are in the early stages.
The job cuts are expected to be spread out over a 12-month period.
Probation service union NAPO believes the measures, if implemented, could put the public at risk.
Ian Lawrence, general secretary of NAPO, said members feel let down by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling.
“We are angry and disappointed about this news. Probation staff have been through hell over the last 18 months dealing with Grayling’s so called reforms and now many of them are facing redundancy and job insecurity.
“When we met with Sodexo earlier this year they told us there would be no reductions in workforce.
“The use of call centres and machines instead of highly skilled staff is down right dangerous and will put the public at risk.”
A Sodexo Justice Services spokesman said it was opening consultation on the plans with staff across the six UK centres that it operates.
“We are in the process of sharing our future plans with employees across the six CRCs that we operate, including Northumbria CRC.
“Given that we will be formally consulting on these plans, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”
“Regarding the enhanced voluntary redundancy scheme, we are complying with the National Agreement negotiated between the unions and NOMS.
“We are looking at the possibility of introducing biometric systems in the future but details have not yet been confirmed.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 01 Apr 2015
A union official has criticised a Labour council for putting 11 experienced health trainers out of a job after it chose a private company over the existing NHS provider.
The decision by Stockton Borough Council to award the contract to provide health trainer services to the private Leeds-based company More Life in preference to the existing providers – a team of 11 health trainers employed by the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust – means the NHS in the North-East is facing a redundancy bill for more than £200,000.
But the council defended its actions describing the NHS bid for the contract as “very poor” and stressing that the authority was heavily investing in a new family weight management service.
In 2005 the North-East was among the first areas in the country to benefit from NHS personal trainers.
But since public health budgets were switched from the NHS to local councils some contracts have been awarded to private companies.
More Life’s website says the company delivers weight management and health improvement programmes to individuals, families, local communities and within workplaces and has an impressive track record.
It was founded by Professor Paul Gately, one of the UK’s most respected experts in obesity and nutrition
“We are determined to get clear answers from Stockton Council and the trust as to why this has happened and why our members are facing redundancy instead of transferring to the new provider. It’s simply not right and we need to get to the bottom of this quickly. “
Stockton Borough Council’s director of public health, Peter Kelly, said:
“The Stockton Health and Wellbeing board has commissioned a new service for children and family weight management investing £1.4 million over the next three years and in addition to this is also currently investing nearly £200,000 per year in services for adults. North Tees and Hartlepool Trust was one of the bidders for the new service but the quality of its submission was very poor.”
Source – Northern Echo, 27 Mar 2015
Eleven new finance jobs worth at least £400,000 have been advertised at a health trust – days after nearly 40 staff in the same department were told their jobs are to go.
The move has angered the workers facing redundancy, who today described it as “just another smack in the face”.
If the 11 new staff were appointed at the bottom of the pay scale their wages would still cost South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust nearly £400,000 a year.
At the top end the wages would be closer to half-a-million pounds.
Most of the jobs were advertised on the website jobs.nhs.uk just days after 37 payroll workers were told their roles were being “outsourced” to Lancashire.
As reported, the shock news – two days before Christmas – left staff reeling.
One staff member said: “We are mad that jobs are going from Teesside.
“Our area suffers enough and it’s the knock-on effect for our families.”
Trust chiefs say the review of financial services is part of a programme to save £90m over three years – “that will eventually touch all areas of the organisation”.
From April 2015 services provided by the trust’s payroll, accounts payable and accounts receivable teams will move to East Lancashire Financial Services, part of Calderstone Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.
Among the 11 new positions now being advertised in the trust’s finance department are a head of financial management on £65,922-£81,618 per annum, head of financial governance and control, also on £65,922- £81,618, and financial controller on between £39,239-£47,088.
One of the payroll staff, who asked to remain anonymous, said:
“We all feel appalled and let down by the way we have been treated.
“The timing of advertising the positions in finance is just another smack in the face.
“How can the trust possibly justify this sort of spending at a time when it is in such deficit and other departments trust-wide are being told job losses are inevitable?”
Payroll staff will be subject to TUPE transfer, under which they would keep certain employment rights, to East Lancashire Financial Services, say the trust.
But chief executive, Professor Tricia Hart said:
“The board recognises that moving may not be a viable option for some staff.
“In those cases the trust will work with individual staff members to look for alternative roles at South Tees, in line with the trust’s policies.”
Responding to the job adverts a South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust spokeswoman said:
“The trust is working hard to achieve a number of savings plans and financial initiatives which have been developed to ensure the organisation makes the required savings over the next three years.
“In order to achieve these plans it is crucial that financial support is available. We have looked at our current structure and are recruiting to essential posts.
“In line with our savings plans any posts which are not essential will be removed from our structure.”
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 03 Jan 2015
Staff from City Link’s Gateshead and Durham depots have been told to “go on Facebook” to find a new job.
More than 2,350 workers were made redundant. including many of the company’s 101 North East employees, after an 11th hour rescue bid failed.
And now Business Secretary Vince Cable – who unions had criticised for not doing more to stop the company’s collapse – has told warehouse staff and delivery drivers to search social media for work.
“The Government has put arrangements in place to help employees who are made redundant and we stand ready to help,” Mr Cable said.
“City Link employees and self-employed drivers who have their contracts terminated as a result of City Link’s administration will be able to access the Government’s rapid response service, which draws together local partners such as Jobcentre Plus and the skills bodies to deliver support for each person affected.
> Watch out for the sanctions, lads. Now you are unemployed you automatically become scum and will be treated accordingly.
“In addition, a Facebook page has been set-up to link-up companies holding suitable vacancies with those who have been made redundant, so if drivers can be redeployed into new jobs in this competitive buoyant market they will be.”
> So get ready to grab another self-employed or otherwise unstable job opportunity with another poorly-managed company.
Reacting to the redundancies, RMT general secretary Mick Cash said:
“The City Link Christmas destruction is an act of industrial vandalism that shames our nation while the Government looked on and offered nothing but hollow words.”
Mr Cash had earlier disclosed details of a possible rescue, saying they had been “made aware of what we believe to be a credible bid to take over some or all of the City Link trading operation”.
But the administrators said that the offer they had received “offered no money up front and significantly undervalued the assets to be acquired.”
In total 2,356 City Link redundancies were announced on New Year’s Eve – however there are still 30,000 parcels waiting to be collected from City Link depots, which stopped accepting new items on Christmas Eve, and 371 people have been kept on to deal with remaining parcels and to assist in winding down its operations. It is not yet clear how many of those jobs are in the North East.
Customers who have sent parcels and intended recipients have been advised to collect their items between 8am and 8pm, with depots expected to remain open until “approximately” January 6.
Joint administrator Hunter Kelly said:
“It is with regret that we have to announce substantial redundancies at City Link Limited, which ceased accepting new parcels on December 24 2014.
“The company endured substantial losses, which ultimately became too great for it to continue as a going concern, and City Link Limited entered administration following an unsuccessful sale process.
“At meetings across City Link Limited’s UK sites on Monday and Tuesday, employees were informed that there would be substantial redundancies as no new business was being taken on.”
The administrators said staff affected by redundancy will be offered advice and support in making claims for redundancy and notice pay.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 01 Jan 2015
Originally posted on Kate Belgrave
In the last couple of weeks, I’ve been attending leafleting sessions outside jobcentres with the Kilburn Unemployed Workers’ Group and talking to people on JSA about their experiences as they sign on. We’ve been talking to people about sanctions, about being spoken down to by staff and having to walk on eggshells or risk being sanctioned, about relying on the jobcentre for JSA payments between short-term, low-paid jobs and about pointless work programme courses. I’ve posted some transcripts from today’s discussions below.
This morning, we were outside the Neasden jobcentre. It was freezing cold and there was a nasty, biting wind and a number of people we spoke to looked cold and shaky because they were not dressed warmly enough for the weather. I know we hear a great deal about life on JSA being a rort and people on benefits enjoying TV and cigarettes and long days lying around in the sun and all the rest of it, but it never looks that great when I see it.
People talk about having to go weeks without money and being forced to grovel and fawn to staff to avoid being sanctioned, and about the terror of putting the card into the cash machine and finding that no money comes out because you’ve been sanctioned after all. And in this rubbish weather, they look cold.
This is the punishment you get these days for the crime of being unemployed and not rich. You are utterly powerless. You’re on the receiving end of everything. You have to put up with everyone’s crap. Of course – things are very different if you’re rich and connected. Life generally is very different if you’re rich and connected. Very different. If you’re Chris Huhne, for example, you get your media-class buddies to give you a column at the Guardian when you leave prison. If you’re Maria Miller, you help yourself to £90k from the taxpayer and claim that little earner was totally above board. If you’re Nadhim Zahawi, you charge the taxpayer to heat your horses’ stables. These people genuinely believe that it’s the rest of us who are out of line. That’s the part that really gets me.
Most of the people we spoke to this morning were forced to collect JSA between low-paid and insecure jobs, or to subsidise low-paid and insecure jobs – something that ought to concern everyone who relies on a wage to pay the bills. One of the women, Noreen, talked about finding work on “lucky days.” She meant that she found work by herself on days when her luck was in and she managed to talk to the right people, not because there was any system in place to help her. Pity she doesn’t have as many lucky days as Chris Huhne.
I’ve been speaking to people for a couple of weeks now and have yet to find anyone who has found work through their jobcentre. Everyone talks about finding work themselves. These jobcentres are an exercise in degradation and futility. People don’t go to their jobcentre because they believe that someone will help them find a job. They go there to present meaningless “evidence” of a fortnight’s jobsearch activity and to sit very still and silently during interviews with jobcentre staff in the hope that they’ll avoid a sanction. “They’re about stressing people out and raising your blood pressure and they are there to give you a heart attack,” Noreen told us this morning. Can’t help thinking that is the point of the exercise as far as Iain Duncan Smith is concerned.
Anyway – here are a couple of people who sign on at Neasden jobcentre. I’m changing the names for these, because I don’t want jobcentres getting fancy ideas about sanctioning people who dare to share their views in public. I won’t respond well if I hear that is happening. People who are on JSA have every right to share their views and I’ll keep posting their views because of that.
Noreen, in her late 40s. Has been out of work for about 18 months, with a spell of short-term work over Christmas.
“I’ve been on the work programme for two weeks – it was writing your CV, learning how to attach your CV to an email. But I can do that. It was to build your confidence. But what I need to do is find a job. I want just a job, any job. Any job that means I don’t have to come here [to the jobcentre].
“I have to come every two weeks to sign on. They are a bit stroppy. You can’t say nothing to them, because if you argue back to them, the security is there and they will sanction you. I’ve seen people there arguing… you have to keep quiet, sometimes you don’t want to keep quiet. The best [thing you can do] is to get a job and then you don’t have to come here, innit. You can get your own money and then you can pay your own bills and you don’t have to come here. You come here like you’re some bloody scrounger. I have been looking for work for 18 months. I used to work at McVitie’s for 22 years – you know, the factory. They gave us redundancy. Since then, I have done carework and I’ve worked in supermarkets. I think I’ll have to go back into carework, but it’s not well paid and you have to walk up and down [all over Neasden] to people’s houses [from one care job to another].
“You don’t get paid for travel [travelling between care work jobs at different houses during the day]. If you drive, you don’t get paid for petrol, so it’s best if you can find something where you can walk it. It’s about £6.20 an hour that you get paid. You can’t pay your bills on that.
“Sometimes,with care work, the hours are zero hours, so you don’t know this week if you would get 16 hours [the number of hours you must work under to claim JSA]. You may get ten or 11 hours and then you have to come here and sign on to make it up to the 16 hours. It’s impossible. You’re trapped and there’s no way out.
“This place [Neasden jobcentre] is harsh. I wish they could close it down. They don’t find you a job in there. There’s the computer in there – you punch something into it and you read it and it says “Here’s this job.” You bring the job information up and you ring the number – but the job is gone. You send your CV, but you never get a reply. You will never find any jobs in there. No.
“It’s just a waste of time. Most of the jobs in there – they don’t bother to check the computer to see if the jobs in there are already filled. Every two weeks I go there, the same old jobs are in there. It’s just rubbish.
“I will find myself a job. Sometimes, [when you take your CV to a major retailer] they say “go online” [to apply] but it can be worth going in, to see if it is your lucky day. You can go into Ikea and they might say “go online” but they might say – “here’s an application form”. If it is your lucky day. That’s how you get a job if it is temporary. That happened to me [with a major retailer] over the Christmas period. [The woman I met at the store], she said “go online” but then she said “since you have come in, you can fill in an application form “and that’s how I got two months’ work over Christmas.”
So. That was Noreen. Like I say – Noreen’s lucky days are a bit different from Chris Huhne’s. Or even Nadhim Zahawi’s horses’.
Next, we spoke to Amy, who is 19 and had just been signed off JSA. She lives in supported accommodation where she shares facilities. She is pregnant. She works part time in a large retail chain. Her wages come in at about £150-£200 a month. Sometimes, she works eight hours a week and sometimes she works overtime. She worked overtime during the Christmas rush. She said she had been claiming about £10 a fortnight in JSA which she spent on food.
She was very confused about the information that she’d been given by the jobcentre and the reasons for her own signing off from JSA, as you’ll see below. People raise this issue a lot when we speak. They sometimes find their entitlements and JSA search requirements difficult to understand when they work and when they work different hours each week. That is often because they’re told very confusing things. I’m posting this discussion as an example. When confronted with this sort of confusing information, people sometimes just find it easier to sign off – and that isn’t fair. Amy left us her contact details, so if anyone can shed any light on the situation outlined below and Amy’s entitlements, please get in contact or leave a comment. We will get back to her.
Amy: They said [at the jobcentre] to do more hours, but my hours vary, because sometimes I do overtime. She [the women at the jobcentre] said to me that I have to do more hours. Then she said to apply for ESA. I’m going to have to call them later on.
“They tell me they are going to pay me £10 a fortnight [in JSA], but I can’t live on £10. I’m working, but all that money goes on my bills. They’re cutting off the tenner now. And now I can’t get that. I’ve signed off. I need that money because it pays for my food.
“I have to give them proof of looking for another job… I didn’t think they were going to hound me [for that ten pounds]. If you’re on JSA, you have to look for work, but I’ve already got work. But it’s not enough hours for tax credits. Then I have to go off on maternity in two months. I get £7.50 an hour [at my job], which is not bad.
“I asked for the hardship fund, but they said I can’t get it… But I have nothing to live off, now so I’m living off him (she points to her friend) until I get paid. They said go off JSA and go onto ESA. I have a GP letter which says I can’t work more hours.
“I’m working eight hours a week and they want me to go up to 16, or to get another job as well. They signed me off, because I couldn’t look for more hours. I was getting £20 a month from them. I’m living in supported accommodation. I pay rent for the house, bills, TV licence. My pay from work goes all to my bills. I get about £150-200 a month. Roughly. They made us work extra hours over Christmas, so I had more then.”
So. That was Amy. Wonder if Maria Miller found it that difficult to claim £90k in expenses.
Source – Kate Belgrave, 17 Feb 2014
A huge restructure of Northumbria Police will see more than 400 jobs go and police stations closed as part of ongoing measures to save a total of £104m in response to “relentless” Government funding cuts.
The force will lose 230 members of staff – some by voluntary or compulsory redundancy – and reduce its number of senior officers by 200, through ‘natural turnover’.
They will also close “expensive” police stations, and reduce the number of area commands from six to three.
The restructure plans were announced last night as it was revealed that Northumbria Police has to save an additional £46m by March 2017, having already delivered £58m of savings since the start of the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review in 2010.
Police and Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird, branded the cuts “unfair” but promised to protect frontline services working in neighbourhoods throughout the region.
> What does that mean ? We still wont see the coppers we already never see, unless speeding past in a car ?
She said: “The Government cuts are relentless and unfair. They impact far more heavily on our police service than on many others. The Chief Constable and I are very committed to maintaining the number of police officers and staff working in our neighbourhoods.
“To achieve this we need to do things differently, use technology more effectively and work from different buildings that are cheaper to run.”
The proposals, which the force stress are in the early stages, will see some “outdated” police stations closed and Neighbourhood Policing Teams relocated to bases within the communities they serve in shared accommodation facilities such as leisure centres.
> A plastic plod in the front of a supermarket, strictly 9-5, and able only to refer you to the police’s website, no doubt
However, a spokeswoman for Northumbria said that no police buildings will close until suitable new locations have been found.
Mrs Baird added: “We will relocate Neighbourhood Policing Teams to bases in the local community, usually shared with other services. We are currently doing this in North Tyneside where we are proposing to have police in the White Swan Centre at Killingworth following public consultation, rather than in an outdated, expensive-to-maintain police station in Forest Hall.
“We are keen to make further savings by relocating other neighbourhood policing teams into the communities that they serve, as this is what local policing is all about. However, we guarantee no police services will be relocated until we have found accessible bases within the community for neighbourhood teams to work from and they are working well.
“I am conscious that local people are feeling the effects of the economic downturn very acutely in our region. We have managed to protect frontline numbers and deliver the savings needed without the public having to pay more.”
> You’d never guess she used to be an MP, would you ?
Another change in the way Northumbria Police operate will be the down-sizing of the current six area commands – Newcastle, Gateshead, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Northumberland and Sunderland – to three.
These will cover existing local authority areas coming under North, Central and South. North will cover North Tyneside and Northumberland, Central will serve Newcastle and Gateshead and South will cover Sunderland and South Tyneside.
> With the possible closure of Sunderland’s city centre Gilbridge police station being mooted – to go with the probable closure of the city centre fire station. How long before someone decides the city doesn’t really need a hospital either ?
The force has said it has made every effort to safeguard the services the public say they value most, which is visible policing in their communities.
> Invisible policing, more like ! Otherwise only seen when there’s a football match on.
The proposed changes, which won’t see any increase in council tax, will not reduce the service to the public nor impact on the force’s ability to reduce crime and disorder, according to Northumbria Police.
> Truth is, the region is never going to be a potential Tory electoral gain (Hexham aside), so why should anyone in government really care what happens here ?
On the other hand, it’s safe Labour seats, so they don’t appear to feel the need to stand up for us either – they take it for granted that they’ll get voted back whatever happens.
Talk about being between a rock and a hard place !
Perhaps, should Scotland go independant, they might consider extending the border down to the Tees…
Source – Newcastle Journal, Sunderland Echo, 09 Jan 2014