Council clash with union over performance related pay plan at Harrogate Convention Centre

Performance related pay is to be introduced at Harrogate Convention Centre.
Performance related pay is to be introduced at Harrogate Convention Centre.

Sales staff at the Harrogate Convention Centre will now receive financial bonuses based on their work performance, in a trial designed to make the centre one of the top-performers in the country.

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However, the union for public service workers has criticised the move, claiming it could potentially create a “two-tier” pay system at the council.

“We don’t feel as though this is the right approach,” David Houlgate, Unison’s local government branch secretary for Harrogate said.

“It basically sets up a two-tier workforce in regards to pay, where other members of council don’t have an opportunity to access bonuses.”

Mr Houlgate said the union had already lodged a dispute over the move.

Among their concerns, he said, was that the basic pay rate for sales staff may be reduced.

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“We aren’t against the principle of bonuses, but we do believe that it should go to the whole workforce,” he said.

Councillor Tim Myatt, who chairs the human resources committee, hit back at the claims, saying it was “difficult to understand why the trade union is objecting to a trial scheme which gives their members in the Convention Centre the opportunity to earn more”.

Coun Myatt (Con, High Harrogate) said the two year trial could potentially extend to other council workers at the end of the testing period if it was successful.

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“I know we live in strange times but it is the first time I have heard a trade union object to an employer paying employees more,” he said.

Coun Myatt said the move was part of using “every means at our disposal” to make the Harrogate centre more competitive on a national scale.

“Harrogate Convention Centre brings over £57m into the local economy every year.

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“That is money ringing through the cash registers of hotels, guest houses, restaurants and our independent shops.

“It is money going in to the wage packets of local people – often young people working in the hospitality industry.”

The decision on whether to introduce profit related pay was heard behind closed doors due to its commercially sensitive information at a human resources committee meeting on October 24.

Under the trial, sales managers and business development managers will receive a commission for securing lettings at the centre.

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A council report on the matter stated that profit related pay had been implemented at all other convention centres in the country. The report also suggested that the added incentive would make convention centre jobs attractive to potential employees from the private sector.

The vote came at the same meeting where councillors voted in favour of beginning the process to replace the outgoing director of the convention centre, Simon Kent.

Mr Kent is due to vacate the role in September 2019 according to a council report.

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Costs for the recruitment process, which includes advertising the job, will come out of the convention centre budget.