Labour MPs in peace talks to solve union row over cuts at Stoke-on-Trent City Council
LABOUR MPs are to be called in to help broker a deal between unions and city councillors amid an escalating crisis over council pay cuts which has already seen one member quit.
The Sentinel revealed this week how Unison members voted to withdraw their support for Labour in a bid to force a U-turn on Stoke-on-Trent City Council's £2 million cuts to workers' terms and conditions.
The union's regional branch is expected to approve the unprecedented measure at a meeting in Birmingham today and other trade unions could follow its lead.
City MPs met with Unite union leaders yesterday to discuss the cuts.
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Tristram Hunt, MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central, said they were 'standing ready to broker a solution'.
Changes to contracts will see payments for working weekends and nights scrapped – a move which unions say will see some of the lowest paid frontline workers lose thousands of pounds. Further cuts will see the working week cut for some staff, parking charges introduced for employees and workers asked to take five days' unpaid leave.
Labour says 848 of the lowest paid workers, most of whom are part-time, will receive pay increases to lift them from the minimum wage to a 'living wage' of £7.45 an hour.
Leaders say cuts to mileage allowances will hit better-paid staff by removing extra payments for cars with bigger engines.
Dr Hunt, pictured below, said: "This has caused unwelcome friction within the Labour movement. I am hopeful it can be ironed out.
"On the one hand, the council has got to a set a budget, but on the other the unions are quite rightly balancing their support for both the Labour party and their members.
"The council has committed to the living wage, which is very welcome, but these are cuts which are going to hurt people at all levels, particularly individuals on lower incomes who are really going to feel this.
"It reflects the nature of the cuts nationally which are hitting places like Stoke-on-Trent, Birmingham and Liverpool far harder than places like Oxfordshire and Surrey."
Unison's decision will also see cash support given at election times withdrawn.
Councillor Andy Lilley quit Labour this week after refusing to support the cuts and now represents Baddeley, Milton and Norton as an unaffiliated member.
Six further members of the council's 32-strong ruling Labour group are understood to be opposing the changes.
Labour and council leader Mohammed Pervez said: "At the end of the day, I can't make decisions based on things like funding for elections. This is an objective decision to help pull the city through. We have waited 18 months for these proposals to be achieved.
"We have not imposed any decisions on the unions, but instead we have encouraged them to negotiate with us and if they have a more equitable way of making the savings we will discuss them.
"I'm disappointed we haven't made more progress, but we have to get serious now.
"In my opinion, it is far better to negotiate on terms and conditions and protect jobs than to lay off an extra 100 people."
Val Gibson, Unison's Labour Link secretary for the West Midlands, said: "Unison members who pay into the affiliated political fund have said they want us to stop our support in Stoke-on-Trent.
"That decision will now be considered by the regional committee."