Ditch jubilee holiday to save Falkirk jobs

The Queen celebrates her Diamond Jubilee next year
The Queen celebrates her Diamond Jubilee next year

Workers have told cash-strapped Falkirk Council – “we don’t want a day off”.

Like millions across the country, the local authority’s staff are in line for a holiday to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee next year.

But with the bill for another public holiday likely to cost the council coffers upwards of £220,000, trade union officials have urged a radical rethink.

They would prefer the money be put towards employee savings to safeguard jobs.

When the council’s powerful policy committee met this week to discuss the arrangements for the Diamond Jubilee, which marks 60 years since HM Queen Elizabeth II came to the throne, councillors were reluctant to agree to another day off for local authority staff without further consultation.

As well as impacting on the bill for delivering services, they heard it could also affect the education timetable.

Councillor Craig Martin, council leader, said: “This has definitely given us a bit of a dilemma.

“We need to consult wider before reaching any decision.”

Members heard that the date for the public holiday Diamond Jubilee celebration is Tuesday, June 5, with the Scottish Government – in line with the rest of the UK – moving the late May bank holiday to Monday, June 4, to allow a longer holiday weekend.

However, Falkirk doesn’t have a holiday at the end of May to move.

Karen Algie, the council’s head of human resources, told members they had four options:

* Don’t recognise the additional public holiday.

* Replace an existing public holiday – no cost but would involve negotiations with trade unions over contract changes.

* Agree an additional public holiday – costing around £220,000.

* Agree an additional annual leave day – costing around £110,000.

She explained that the bill for an extra public holiday would involve paying around 1400 frontline staff double time at an estimated cost of £110,000.

They would also be entitled to an additional day back at a later date, costing another £110,000 to provide cover.

Ms Algie said: “As an alternative, granting additional leave as a fixed annual leave day, as was done for the Royal Wedding this year, would involve no enhanced payments with frontline staff required to work and allowed to take the day’s leave at a later stage.

“This would cost around £110,000 to provide cover when the additional leave was taken.”

She added that both the latter options were likely to have an impact on schools.

A report on the holiday quandary highlighted that the trade unions had been consulted and would “prefer” no extra public holiday or day of leave.

It stated: “They have suggested that, in the current financial climate, the costs of recognising an additional day should be put towards any employee-related savings that are required by the council.

“If, however, members wish to grant an additional day and as a result change one of the existing public holidays to allow for a long weekend, the trade unions have informally intimated that their preference would be for the May holiday to remain unchanged, with a potential for the September holiday to be used instead.”

Provost Pat Reid labelled the idea of having a public holiday on a Tuesday as “absolutely daft”.

He said: “I can understand why the Government has done it, but the impact on us would be huge.

“Without further consultation, we won’t know whether there would be any support for having a holiday on this day or even on a Monday.”

He urged that as well as asking staff across council departments, parent councils also be consulted, adding: “The disruption this would have on schools would be incredible.”

Councillor David Alexander expressed sympathy with the unions’ point of view.

He said: “I can see where they are coming from, but I think we need to have further discussion with them before agreeing to anything.”

Councillors have opted to hold wider consultation involving staff, community councils and schools before coming to a decision.

Gray Allan, branch secretary of Unison, the largest public sector union, said: “This was a no brainer for us. It was a holiday we had never had and wouldn’t miss if we didn’t get. Our branch committee was clearly of the view it was an easy saving for the council to make.”

The Queen came to the throne on February 6, 1952 following the death of her father, King George VI, and her coronation took place on June 2, 1953. She celebrated her Silver Jubilee in 1977 and Golden Jubilee in 2002.

The only other British monarch to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee was Queen Victoria in 1897.

Buckingham Palace is co-ordinating a programme of events to mark the celebration around the extended weekend holiday, including a Big Jubilee Lunch, Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the Thames, a concert at Buckingham Palace and the lighting of 2012 beacons through the UK.