Support workers left in limbo without pay for six weeks

Care workers who have not been paid since August outside the Unsion offices,Sheffield..l to r Rita Henderson,Rachel Henderson,Lynne Mason and Sharon Allen
Care workers who have not been paid since August outside the Unsion offices,Sheffield..l to r Rita Henderson,Rachel Henderson,Lynne Mason and Sharon Allen
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FOUR women employed as support workers for vulnerable adults have been left ‘penniless’ after a dispute between Sheffield Council and a contractor.

Sharon Allen, Lynne Mason and mother and daughter Rita and Rachel Henderson, who have more than 30 years’ service between them, were all employed as support workers for people with mental health problems and learning difficulties living at Carrwood House, Ellesmere.

Sheffield Council terminated its contract with their employer ICON, run by Carwood House’s owner Fred Marshall, and decided to hand the contract for support workers to a different company.

The women, who finished working for ICON on August 31, said they were told by Mr Marshall they would be transferred to the new service provider under TUPE - regulations which protect their terms and conditions.

But Sheffield Council said the women were not being transferred because it was providing a ‘different sort of service’ and they remain employed by ICON, which has not issued any of them with their P45s and they have not been paid.

Sharon, aged 39, from Rotherham, who managed the small team, said: “We have been left with no wages for nearly six weeks but cannot claim jobseekers’ allowance because we are technically still employed.

“My husband works but we have a 10-year-old daughter and it’s been quite a hit on our finances.”

Lynne, 55, of Shiregreen, who has been helping her 18-year-old son with the costs of going to university, added: “I’ve had to borrow off relatives to make ends meet.

“My father, who is in his 80s and on his pension, has even offered to help out.”

Rita, 59, and Rachel, 34, who live at Ellesmere, said they have been forced to depend on their family for income.

Unison Regional Organiser Chris Jenkinson said: “Our members are angry at the abominable way they have been treated. They have been refused information throughout and are now penniless even though they have done absolutely nothing wrong.

“Unison will bring proceedings in the Employment Tribunal against both ICON and the council.”

Mr Marshall, of ICON, said: “I was informed verbally at a meeting on the August 12, 2011, with the council that they were not going to renew the support contract with ICON and that the service was going to be provided by their own staff team as confirmed by their letter to us dated August 18 from Ann Ellis.

“Our advisers have informed us that this constituted a TUPE transfer. We have consulted with this staff group at all stages of the process. We are still in discussions with the council.”

A Sheffield Council spokeswoman said: “Our legal position is clear. In this case, the staff cannot be transferred into the council’s employment by the process known as TUPE because the service they provide has not been transferred back to the Council, but replaced with a different sort of housing related support service.

“We chose not to renew our contract with ICON when it came to an end on August 31. The company was made aware of this verbally in May, and informed in writing in June and July. The staff have always been employed by ICON and remain the company’s responsibility.”