Union rep is the real turkey in Notts council jobs cull saga

A sigh, a shake of the head, a feeling of acute exasperation and then a real sense of empathy for Jack Markiewicz, Nottinghamshire County Council’s HR director, were my initial reactions to your news story about the proposals for restructuring the council’s HR function (Personnel Today, 15 May).

With a Unison branch secretary who is clearly living in the dark ages, is it any wonder they don’t understand what the council is trying to achieve?

The most frustrating and equally entertaining comment in the whole article, from Unison official Jill Turner, was “managers have never dealt with HR issues before and are not competent to do so”.

Frankly, what planet is Turner living on? Please explain why managing people (or HR issues) isn’t the role of the line manager?

The prospect of job cuts is never pleasant, but a proposal that creates an integrated HR service, with career progression, is one that is actually beneficial to the HR staff concerned. The fact that not all the existing jobs could be protected is saddening, but then which public sector employer isn’t having to tighten its belt? And when are trade unions going to accept that the ‘job for life’ urban myth is at an end?

Unpalatable as it might sound, if I were a council tax payer in Nottinghamshire and had the option to cut HR jobs or to cut front-line services, such as education or social care, I know which option I’d go for. Yes, you can accuse me of the ‘turkeys voting for Christmas’ syndrome, but being in the ‘business’ of public services means making hard choices. When these choices mean the difference between providing education for a five-year-old child with learning disabilities, or the administration of an HR process, then a turkey I am.

Markiewicz is to be applauded for this restructuring and is doing what any HR leader needs to do – developing the function to meet the needs of the business.

In my mind, fellow turkeys, the challenge is simple: evolve or die.

Stephen Moir, director of people and policy, Cambridgeshire County Council

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