Derbyshire Council is threatening to sack up to 300 staff who work
at its older people’s and children’s care homes over their refusal
to sign new employment contracts.
The staff – around a quarter of the council’s total care home
workforce – are angry about certain conditions in the new contract
that will cut sickness and absence pay and overnight stay rates for
Unless they sign the contract by 23 December, the council has told
them that they will be given six weeks’ notice and their employment
will be terminated from 2 February 2003.
Derbyshire Council said it had introduced the new measures to
offset a social services budget shortfall of £1.2m. This was
caused by the council moving to a single status agreement in 1999,
which reduced care home staff’s weekly hours from 39 to 37 without
a reduction in pay. It said the social services wages bill rose by
5.4 per cent after the change.
The council said the changes would target sickness levels and
reduce the cost of residential places at its homes, bringing them
into line with fee levels for the independent sector.
Public services union Unison is in discussions with the council
over whether the savings could be made from elsewhere but has vowed
to take the matter to an employment tribunal if talks fail because
it believes the council is breaching European law.
Peter Moore, Unison secretary at Derbyshire social services, said
the new conditions could cost workers – many of whom were paid
around £5 an hour – up to £2,000 a year if they were off
sick for long periods.
He said residential care home staff who worked weekends were paid
double and double sick pay. But they will only get the normal
weekday rate for weekend sickness under the new contract. “These
workers sustain lots of injuries because of moving older people and
violence in children’s homes and can’t afford to lose such
enhancements off their pay,” Moore added.