Hammersmith and Fulham Council insists it will be able to deliver all statutory services, including social work and mental health, as a deadline looms for staff to accept reduced terms and conditions.
Community Care has been told that the west London authority could struggle to run its statutory approved mental health service because only a handful of staff in these teams have agreed to the new terms, which apply to all council staff apart from teachers and senior management.
Around 95% of staff subject to the new agreement have signed the terms, which were altered following an outcry when they were initially published, alongside redundancy notices, in October 2008.
30 September deadline
But staff who do not sign by 30 September will have their contracts terminated, while Unison is today staging a mass signing of the new contracts “under protest and without prejudice”, as it could take cases to industrial tribunal.
A Hammersmith and Fulham Council spokesperson said it was “taking all measures necessary to secure the delivery of all statutory services”.
Unison has been angered by changes to flexi-time and to special leave entitlements, including maternity pay.
Maternity pay changes
Staff are currently entitled to 63 weeks of maternity leave, comprising 16 weeks on full pay, 24 weeks on half pay and 23 weeks unpaid. However, under the new terms this will change to eight weeks full pay, 20 weeks half pay plus statutory maternity pay, 11 weeks statutory pay, and 13 weeks unpaid. These changes alone will save the council almost £500,000 a year.
Other major changes include abolishing dependency leave (up to 15 days’ paid entitlement), bereavement leave (three days paid plus two more in exceptional cases), and compassionate leave (five paid days plus 10 unpaid), to be replaced with a new special leave entitlement of five paid days, plus three more for bereavement and up to 10 unpaid days per year.
The council spokesperson said the new terms were designed to bring Hammersmith and Fulham “broadly in line with other London councils and similar organisations and to reduce the financial burden of council tax on our residents”.
The changes would save £1.1m a year in total, and the “vast majority of council employees accept the reasons for the modernisation in the current economic circumstances”, he added.