Ipswich: Council faces legal challenge from lowest-paid workers as street cleaners hit out over pay rises

Ben Gummer with the Ipswich street cleaners. Ben Gummer with the Ipswich street cleaners.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014
6:00 AM

Ipswich council has been threatened with another legal challenge – this time from some of its lowest-paid workers who claim they have been denied a pay rise by their bosses.

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The borough’s 21 street cleaners have enlisted the help of the town’s Conservative MP Ben Gummer as they try to ensure they get pay rises they have been awarded over recent years.

The cleaners’ wages are among the lowest at the borough and have been linked to the minimum wage so when that goes up their pay should rise.

However they also receive an “attendance allowance” on top of their wage – and this has been lowered every time their wage has increased over the last five years, effectively meaning they have received no pay rise.

Aidan Connolly said: “When I started in 2006 I got an attendance allowance of £34 a week, now it is down to £23 a week. That means over the last few years I’ve lost about £1,500.”

The cleaners’ Unison representative had raised the issue with the management, but Mr Connolly said this had not been successful. “I was told it might be immoral but they were able to do it,” he said.

They took their plight up with Mr Gummer who sought the advice of a top employment solicitor in London.

Jill Andrew, of Beamlaw, wrote to him saying: “I consider that your constituents have good grounds on which to pursue legal action against the council.”

Mr Gummer said: “These are some of the lowest-paid workers in the town, getting about £16,000 a year, and the council has taken away the pay rises to which they are entitled.

“The council seems to think just because they are doing a dirty job that they must be too stupid to see what is happening to them!”

The street cleaners had originally not wanted to go public on their concerns, but they were now preparing to launch a legal challenge.

A borough spokesman said: “The council has not formally received any legal correspondence from Ben Gummer’s office on this matter.

“While there was an issue over the pay of cleansing staff this was fully resolved via agreement with Unison following a ballot of their affected members with effect of April 1, 2014.

“There are no outstanding issues. It is not appropriate to comment further.”

The new legal threat to the borough comes just days after the county council threatened to seek a judicial review of a borough planning decision over payments for new school places.

9 comments

  • Election day today! I've been to cast my vote, the ruling labour group did not get my vote. Due to the treatment of their workers in the recent single status harmonisation. All I can say to any councillor's hoping to get re-elected is: " Do you know what Nemesis means"?

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    PAFC

    Thursday, May 22, 2014

  • Well done Mr Gummer for taking time off from your honeymoon to speak with some of the hardworking, loyal, low paid workers of Ipswich borough council. I believe they earn every penny while keeping the town clean & tidy! The Council is being consistent however as during the recent so called single status Harmonisation they penalised workers at the bottom but gave senior managers large pay rises! Yet again Shame on you Ipswich borough Council not looking after the working man!

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    PAFC

    Wednesday, May 21, 2014

  • They're lucky they earn £16k. I earn less and work for an industry that has never been affected by the recession. Last payrise was 2 years ago - 1%. In 9 years my money has only risen by a quarter yet I have one of the lowest absence records. So - if ya can't beat 'em, join 'em and skive off occasionally to get some self respect back. All these employers are full of "team" BS except when it comes to pay.

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    Sarky Sage

    Wednesday, May 21, 2014

  • Its the same old story of hitting the working man yet mps earn 4 times this and also claim allowances for a second home thats where the cuts need to be made start with the fat cats and give the working class a break.

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    gabi

    Wednesday, May 21, 2014

  • I hope they get it as at least they are out there working and not sitting at home.....sorry I mean "working from home" surfing the internet and spending most the day logged into facebook

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    Emma

    Wednesday, May 21, 2014

  • This is when I really have to get upset with politicians. A Conservative Government has told IBC that they can not raise Council Tax by more than 2% and in fact should be looking at zero increases. A Government that Mr Gummer supports. So instead of cutting services, withdrawing help from the vunerable etc etc IBC have attacked their cost base or to you and me the wages bill. Road sweepers are not alone, they may complain they have not had a pay rise in 5yrs, well I know people who have had significant pay cuts working at the council in the last 5yrs in fact I know people wo are earning the same wage now as they did 7 or 10yrs ago because of the changes brought in recently to "unify" the contracts across the council. The same people who now have to work 2hrs a week extra for no extra pay or 104hrs a year or 2weeks 4 days a year extra for nothing. The equivalant in effect of loosing all your holiday entitlment. So Mr Gummer, do you now support giving very hard working council employees a decent pay rise of say 3 or 4 percent to make up for the years of pay cuts and thus putting up council tax by 3 or 4 percent ? The hypocrisy of Mr Gummer is unbelievable.

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    The Ginge

    Wednesday, May 21, 2014

  • Is labour not a union controlled party ? So why are they not looking after their own ,iam sure most are union members.

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    pandy

    Wednesday, May 21, 2014

  • Why don't they just scrap the 'attendance allowance' altogether and pay them a fair wage. How many other jobs give you a bonus for attending? I think IBC just try to complicate things so they can keep the wages low and hope they don't notice.

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    RC

    Wednesday, May 21, 2014

  • really? I work in the NHS and get paid less than what they do.

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    ducky

    Wednesday, May 21, 2014

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