Council staff reject strike in Doncaster

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DONCASTER Council workers have rejected a call to strike over cuts to their pay and conditions.

A ballot run by the authority’s branch of the union Unison saw members decide against walking out by a hair’s breadth, but they supported action short of a strike.

With a 34 per cent turnout, 50.4 per cent voted against striking.

The union says it will now look to take action including withdrawal of good will and work to rule.

Doncaster branch secretary Jim Board said: “I think our members are demoralised and the attack on their pay and conditions has worn people down. But our members have made their decision.”

Now the union says it is prepared to make more than 1,000 employment tribunal claims after speaking with its lawyers.

Staff will have their previous contracts terminated, and new ones put in place. But the union believes the termination of the contracts amounts to unfair dismissal, even if staff are taken on again on new contracts.

It is hoping to take the cases to a tribunal and win compensation over the way the changes have been handled.

The union says there have been allegations of managers trying to persuade staff to sign new contracts, but over 1,000 had refused.

Mr Board said: “Doncaster Council has relied on fear and confusion to force our members to accept these cuts and this has caused huge distress with members in tears and feeling badly let down by their employer.

“We have always tried to safeguard our members’ interests but Doncaster Council has rejected that approach and been determined to make our members pay.

“Dismissal notices have now been issued to approximately 1,300 employees but shamefully they will only re-engage those who are prepared to accept unlawful, back-dated pay cuts.”

Jo Miller, chief executive at Doncaster Council, said the council had been clear over the last 12 months that it need to make savings through changes to staff terms and conditions to lessen the need for further cuts to jobs and services.

She said: “The vast majority of staff, around 85 per cent, have agreed to the changes in their terms and conditions. That leaves 878 staff out of 5,690 yet to sign up - many of them because of the advice they have received from trade unions.

“We have had a few complaints of inappropriate handling of some of the messages. These have been investigated and, where there have been issues, they have been addressed.

“We have this morning received a letter from Unison. The legal advice the council has received to date is that we are doing the right things in the right way, but of course I have referred the letter to the council’s external lawyers for further advice.

“I would be very surprised to hear otherwise from them because every step of the way we have sought external legal advice to support any action we have taken and communicated and involved staff throughout the process.”

The council says there will be no cut for those earning below £14,733.

Those earning between £14,733 and £14,999 will take a one per cent pay cut. Staff on between £15,000 to £20,799 will take a two per cent pay cut and those on over £20,800 will take a 2.5 per cent cut.