Friday, 25 February 2011

Brain hurts: £900m bankers’ bonus ‘fair’ while £5k cut for police staff ‘good deal'

Justifying £900m in bonuses, the RBS’s Stephen Hester told the BBC yesterday that, “Along with my staff, I want to be treated fairly”. Well, Stephen, so do thousands of police staff in Scotland who are facing up to a £5,000 a year cut in wages which is described by the employers as a ‘good deal’.

Another of those ‘my brain hurts moments’ isn’t it? In order for the country to recover, one of the banks who created the mess while earning huge bucks have to get more bucks as a reward for losing £1.13billion. That is, apparently, being treated ‘fairly’.

On the other hand, the people who suffered from the mess and who deliver essential and efficient police services, are facing a cut of £5,000 on a wage of £25,000. That, according to the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, is ‘a good deal’.

We’re always told local authorities should learn from the private sector on efficiency and clearly this is what has happened here.

Police staff are front-line workers – make no mistake. But the use of police staff for some of these often specialist jobs, frees up police officers for the specific job they are trained and paid to do. Just what everyone wants. That’s efficient. By banking standards that should attract a hefty bonus.

But wait a minute. Don’t you get a bonus even if you are losing money and therefore not very efficient?

This is where the brain starts to hurt. Police staff are efficient, so the employers are cutting their jobs and taking police officers off the beat to cover, which, it would appear, is less efficient.

Now, the employers say they can’t afford the efficient staff so they’ll have to cut their shift allowances – up to a 20% cut in wages. This, as you will recall, is a ‘good deal’.

Still with me?

Where the staff have gone wrong here is that they have been efficient, they have saved the taxpayer money and they have contributed to getting more bobbies on the beat.

Whereas, had they cost the taxpayer billions and threatened to defect to the Swiss Gendarmerie, they would have qualified for huge bonuses under the ‘treated fairly’ test.

This is where UNISON has got its tactics wrong. Instead of moaning on about the plan being discriminatory as it targets a small number of staff who are largely low-paid female workers – although it is – the union should just be asking for the staff to be ‘treated fairly’ and demanding that the employers learn from the private sector, like RBS.

Wait a minute. RBS isn’t the private sector. It is publicly owned. Oh dear.

Right, let’s start again. In order to promote efficiency in the public sector (banking division), you need to pay rich people big (treated fairly) bonuses, even when they had lost lots of our money. But if you save lots of money in the public sector (police staff division) by being more efficient, you need to get your wages cut in a ‘good deal’ to make the service less efficient.

I’m off for a lie down.

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