Unison is accusing Derbyshire Council of breaching a national
agreement over pay and conditions for more than 1,000 staff in care
homes for older people and children.
The council threatened to sack the workers unless they signed new
employment contracts by the end of last month.
About 300 staff initially refused to sign because they were angry
that the new conditions would cut sickness, absence and overnight
pay (news, page 14, 12 December).
But, scared at the prospect of losing their jobs, most have now
signed with only eight refusing.
The council is still holding talks with the rebels and is hopeful
of resolving the dispute.
The new contract will end the practice of paying staff double time
for weekend shifts missed due to illness or injury. Unison believes
it could cost some workers up to £2,000 a year because of the
frequency and severity of incidents at care homes. The council
expects to save £400,000 a year from the change.
It is part of a series of changes to save the council £1.2m
and cover the costs incurred when it moved to a single status
employment agreement in 1999, which reduced workers’ weekly hours
from 39 to 37.
However, Unison believes that scrapping double-time sickness pay is
in breach of the single status agreement negotiated nationally
rather than locally, something the council denies.
“Employers have an obligation to abide by the agreement,” said
Charlie Carruth, Unison regional officer for Derbyshire. “It can’t
be renegotiated locally. It has to be nationally – it is