10,000 Doncaster council workers ‘threatened with sack’

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Council chiefs have been accused of bullying Doncaster’s local authority workers - by threatening to sack them all.

Doncaster Council has issued a legal notice to the unions warning them almost 10,000 staff could be fired and then rehired on different terms of employment.

The council last night stressed the move was not their “preferred outcome”.

But today Unison accused Doncaster Council of behaving like ‘a playground bully’ by sending out a notice to dismiss all workers - except teachers - as it seeks to force through £7.5 million worth of cuts to terms and conditions.

The Section 188 notice says the council intends to terminate the contracts of 9,941 staff and offer re-engagement on revised terms and conditions.

Unison regional organiser Robin Symonds said: “Negotiations between the council and the unions commenced on October 3 and are not due to conclude until mid-November.

“So far we have met four times to discuss the council’s proposals to cut our members’ pay and terms and conditions. We believed our negotiations were being conducted in good faith with the aim of reaching agreement, so to receive the Notice of Dismissals at this early stage is something of a shock.

“There is no legitimate reason why the council should issue the notice and we can only conclude that it is intended to bully us into agreement.

“This ‘agree or else’ ultimatum is a cynical move by the council and is not helpful to what is already a difficult process. Our members are worried about how they are going to make ends meet if their pay is cut by 5.4 per cent and the very last thing they need right now is to be threatened with dismissal.

“Unison members in Doncaster have already taken two days’ strike action to defend their jobs and terms and conditions.

“The council’s latest bullying tactic is likely to raise the temperature still further.

“We call upon Doncaster Council to rescind the dismissal notice in order to allow us to conclude our negotiations without a gun to our heads.”

Local Unison official Jim Board added: “We had a meeting with chief executive Rob Vincent and finance director Simon Wiles on Monday and they must have known this notice was being sent out. It’s an absolutely disgraceful step by the council while negotiations are underway.

“This demonstrates a failure to take the negotiations seriously and deliberately drive through changes without the union having a say.

“This is a bullying approach which is now hanging over us and we will respond very quickly by initiating internal dispute resolution procedures.”

Paul Smillie, the convenor for Unite’s 800 members at the authority, told The Star: “We deplore the way Doncaster Council has taken this approach to re-engage people on new contracts as we started negotiations on October 3 and they took a decision before we reached any agreement. Our members are up in arms about it.”

Doncaster Council’s director of finance and corporate services, Simon Wiles, said: “We are conducting regular and meaningful discussions with trade unions on how best to achieve significant savings through changes to terms and conditions of employment.

“The stark reality is we need to make savings of up to £7.5m from changes to terms and conditions in order to balance our planned 2012/13 budget. We have put forward a range of options for consideration by the unions and we will continue to make every effort to drive forward negotiations with them in order to reach an agreement.

“We are following the formal collective consultation process because ultimately if we are unable to achieve our preferred outcome of reaching a collective agreement, one option available to us to bring about these changes is to terminate and re-engage staff contracts of employment. However, this is not our preferred outcome.”