Craftsmen’s pay dispute with council

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AROUND 100 city craftsmen who lay pavements are balloting for industrial action after changes to Sheffield Council’s pay and grading left them receiving less money than the unskilled labourers they work with.

The dispute has arisen after the workers were left out of a pay and grading review because the council said the Unite union which represents them declined to take part in negotiations.

One of the craftsmen said: “We are now being paid as much as £70 per week less than the labourers, when we’ve done apprenticeships, during which we’ve been paid as little as £1.20 an hour, and taken qualifications so we can do our jobs.

“The difference in wages is substantial - I’m only on £400 a week.”

Unite has submitted a pay claim for craft workers to receive a pay award which would result in them earning 10 per cent more than the highest paid labourer employed by the council.

The council says it will cost up to £233,000 this year and £52,000 a year in future years to implement - which it cannot afford.

But the craftsman said at least a dozen have left since the council made its calculations, so the cost would be lower.

Julie Toner, Sheffield Council’s director of human resources, said: “Despite many attempts by management to encourage craft workers to participate in the Equal Pay Review, the trade union representing those workers declined to do so on the grounds it was national trade union policy not to participate.

“However, following the Equal Pay Review, when the outcomes for labourers became known, the craft trade unions put in a pay claim.

“This is in the context of a two-year pay freeze and a freeze on incremental progression across the whole council for all other employees.”

She added: “There is a strong probability of such a settlement costing the council an additional £233,000 in 2011/12, and an additional £52,000 each year thereafter. This would place additional pressure on existing services at a time when a great deal of commitment is being made to maintain key services.”