It might not make front page news, but the public pay the price when support staff are axed. More than half a million jobs have been lost in local government since 2010.
The trend has been to make ‘efficiency savings’ by axing the jobs of support staff, administrative and clerical workers. But making so-called back office staff redundant is a false economy.
The vital role of admin workers is seriously undervalued. Frontline workers face mounting pressure as they struggle with ever-expanding workloads.
The social worker, trying hard to keep a family together, relies on vital support from behind the scenes to enable them to spend time with troubled families. Juggling casework with ever-increasing piles of paperwork won’t help keep families together.
Despite endless workplace reviews, the threat of redundancy and increasing workloads and pressure, most of these workers support change if it improves services for the public
Responses to UNISON’s 2016 survey of more than 2,200 members working in councils and schools shows that 62% of administrative and clerical workers have considered leaving their employer, while 40% tell us they are actively looking for another job.
They gave low pay, feeling undervalued and a lack of promotion prospects as key reasons. This is hardly surprising when 41% of these workers report having had no training in the past 12 months.
Reviews and reorganisations are rife in local government too.
Some 77% of those surveyed told us they have faced reorganisations in their area of work since 2010, with 56% reporting reduced staffing levels as a result.
Over a third reported staff shortages occurring most days or every week.
Yet despite endless workplace reviews, along with the threat of redundancy and increasing workloads and pressure, most of these workers remain willing to support change in the workplace if it improves services for the public.
Ever since UNISON’s first survey on this issue in 2001, our members have consistently demonstrated a willingness to adapt to workplace change.
But in the face of such upheaval, 45% are worried about job security over the coming 12 months, rising to 69% over the next one to five years. Is it any wonder that 72% of admin workers tell us morale has worsened compared with just a year ago?
We should celebrate the work of those behind the scenes of our local services.
UNISON’s Public Service Champions campaign is doing just that. Front-line workers may be doing their level best to cushion service-users from the impacts of the cuts, but their workloads can only expand so much before the whole edifice of local services crumbles.
If the government’s programme of public-sector cuts continues, then without a backbone of administrative and clerical workers to help take the strain, our vital local services will collapse.