Union boss Dave Prentis to join Doncaster council strikers on picket line

File photo dated 21/6/2011 of Unison General Secretary Dave Prentis who warned that the Government it faced the threat of industrial action over controversial moves to introduce different rates of pay for health workers across regions of the UK. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday April 23, 2012. Prentis said his union would not sit back and allow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley to "destroy" the national pay agreement in the NHS. See PA story INDUSTRY Wages. Photo credit should read: Dave Thompson/PA Wire
File photo dated 21/6/2011 of Unison General Secretary Dave Prentis who warned that the Government it faced the threat of industrial action over controversial moves to introduce different rates of pay for health workers across regions of the UK. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday April 23, 2012. Prentis said his union would not sit back and allow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley to "destroy" the national pay agreement in the NHS. See PA story INDUSTRY Wages. Photo credit should read: Dave Thompson/PA Wire
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UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis is set to visit the borough to support striking union members of Doncaster council’s Highways and Street Scene service.

Mr Prentis will arrive in Doncaster tomorrow morning to join workers, that include street cleaners, grounds maintenance staff and highways workers, after they voted to strike over a proposed council ‘restructure’.

UNISON has branded the restructure as being ‘unfair, unworkable and potentially unsafe’.

Ashley Harper, UNISON Area Organiser, continued: “The Council planned to make staff work longer days with the imposition of compulsory weekend work as well as cuts to overtime payments.

He said: “There are also health and safety concerns in relation to the introduction of new machinery and the fatigue caused by increasing the working day, in some cases, to more than 12 hours including travelling time.

“If Doncaster Council had listened to the views of those affected by these changes we would not be in this position. The fact that we received an 86.5 per cent vote in favour of strike action shows that there is a clear mandate from our members for this industrial action.”

Members of UNISON, Unite and the GMB were all balloted on the strike.

They say they ‘fear their health and their family lives will be damaged by the council’s plans’.

Doncaster council claims that the planned changes will modernise the service, leading to better value for money and improvements in street cleansing and the maintenance of roads and public open spaces like parks throughout the year.

Some 352 jobs are covered by the proposed changes.

The proposals would mean reducing 41 posts – all covered by vacancies and no planned compulsory redundancies.

The council is also looking at reducing the number of depots from six to two to reduce costs given the council has less money due to Government cuts. North Bridge and Cantley Park depots would remain open whilst Bentley, Edlington, Wynthorpe at Dunsville and Oswin Avenue at Balby would close.

The authority says work change proposals would ensure it makes best use of the new vehicles and equipment and provide a more modern, effective service seven days a week, which can respond to service demand throughout the year, the changes will include some staff working more flexible shift patterns.

These new shift patterns will include street cleansing staff working a seven day fortnight rota and grounds maintenance teams working a new seasonal shift pattern.

Officials say the changes would also offer staff further opportunities to:

•Have their requests for amended, flexible or part time working patterns as per the Council’s flexible working strategy considered

•Upskill through training (including support to obtain driving and HGV licences) and increased training budgets

•Grounds staff to worker shorter days and four days per week in winter

•Cleansing staff to work fewer days per week and fewer working days per year

•Increased mechanisation, less physical effort

There will also be the opportunity for some staff to change their career path and current job role within the service area.

The proposals include a drop in the number of lower paid posts, with 28.6 less grade 5 posts. There would also be an increase in the number of posts at higher grades with 26.5 more grade 6 posts and 11 more grade 7 posts, and more apprenticeship opportunities.

The council says introduction of this new way of working would mean there will be the introduction of an all-inclusive allowance for those staff affected by the new work rota with a 3.5 per cent risein pay for seven day fortnight which would mean on average an extra £677 per year

Due to closure of the depots a relocation allowance will also be paid to those staff whose journey to and from work increases, as per the council’s policy.