A growing number of councils in England and Wales are taking an “aggressive” approach to reviewing pay and conditions by issuing redundancy notices rather than first trying to reach an agreement with staff.
Rhondda Cynon Taf is the latest authority to issue section 188 redundancy notices.
The Welsh council said this was part of a formal consultation process, but trade union GMB has claimed staff face the sack if they do not accept the proposed changes to pay, sick pay and car allowances.
An estimated 3,500 people directly employed in Rhondda Cynon Taf’s children’s and community services directorate could be affected.
Jon Sutcliffe, principal strategic adviser for Local Government Employers, said there was a growing trend of authorities issuing redundancy notices in order to change pay and conditions.
“Rhondda is one of a number of recent examples, and the unions are extremely unhappy about it,” he said.
LGE advises employers to fully consult employees and seek their agreement when proposing new terms and conditions.
The approach taken by Rhondda Cynon Taf – to dismiss staff and re-engage them on new contracts – should only be considered if agreement cannot be reached, the guidance states.
“We fully recognise that it’s an individual council’s decision whether to go down that path,” said Sutcliffe.
“However, we have stated in the build up to next year’s pay negations that we would like to achieve a situation through national negotiations where dismissal and re-engagement is not necessary.”
Gareth Morgan, regional officer for GMB, said Rhondda Cynon Taf was acting prematurely by issuing the notices before individual council budgets are allocated. The council expects to face cuts of up to £60m over the next three years.
“Traditionally, particularly in Labour-led councils, we have always negotiated on issues such as this – quite successfully over the years,” said Morgan.
“This is a big and worrying departure from that approach.”
A spokesperson for Rhondda Cynon Taf said the council was “keen to begin meaningful and positive discussions” with trade unions and staff and hoped to avoid making compulsory redundancies.
Unison hit out at Birmingham Council in September for taking an “aggressive” approach and issuing 26,000 staff with section 188 notices to open a consultation on proposed changes to terms and conditions.
Sutcliffe said further councils were likely to follow suit: “Once someone does it, it becomes easier for others to follow.”
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