700 more jobs axed at council

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UNIONS have warned hundreds of cleaning and catering jobs are the next in line for the axe at Doncaster Council.

Talks were held this week which officials at the public sector workers’ union Unison predict will see the loss of more than 140 cleaners and between 50 and 60 catering workers.

The council currently employs around 790 cleaners but is understood to be seeking to reduce that number as part of the next wave of redundancies.

Doncaster Council’s top boss confirmed in an email to staff that another 700 staff are set to be shed.

Chief executive Rob Vincent, who is due to leave his post later this year when his 15-month fixed term contract ends, has revealed there will be more jobs to go as the authority looks to save another £43 million over the next three years.

He will be asking his staff, who are to be balloted for strike action by Unison, to consider taking voluntary redundancy in the next few months.

Unison’s local government section Doncaster branch secretary Jim Board said there would be an emergency meeting for staff in trading services this week to discuss the position of cleaners and catering staff.

His union represents around 4,800 staff at the council.

He said: “I think the number of people who will come forward for redundancy is limited. The terms they offer have been reduced, and there is no benefit now in coming forward.

“This is exactly why we have been balloting for a strike. We have tried to enter discussions but we have been given little in terms of assurances or guarantees to protect people’s jobs.

“From what we hear, people are incredibly angry about this. The jobs they are talking about now are some of the lowest paid people in the authority, and almost exclusively women, who cannot afford to lose their jobs.

“They are not public sector fat cats or high earners, and to target them is nothing short of disgraceful.”

Unions believe the move will mean council buildings are cleaned on fewer days.

Simon Wiles, director of finance and corporate services, said: “There is still a need to look at further reductions of up to 700 posts in this financial year.

“We will explore every option to manage these reductions and we will only consider compulsory redundancy as a last resort. There are no firm plans for any specific services.

“We have met with the unions and will continue to do so in order to manage this situation as sensitively as possible.”

The council says that for 2011-12, about £18 million of the £38 million agreed savings still need to be delivered and, as part of this, a reduction of around 200 posts will be needed.

For 2012-13, the authority says it will need to save at least another £20 million which will probably require a further reduction of 500 posts.

Unison’s strike ballot closes on Thursday June 16.