Plymouth Council has stripped local Unison officials of their negotiating powers after the two organisations failed to reach a collective agreement on new terms and conditions, which are likely to hit many social workers.
The union will no longer have to be consulted on possible redundancies or changes to terms and conditions, and members will no longer have the legal right to take time off to take part in union activities.
A spokesperson for Plymouth Council said it decided to strip the union of its formal recognition after its leadership ignored the results of a members’ vote, which supported signing the revised terms and conditions.
But Helen Willis, regional manager for Unison, said the vote was taken several months ago, and the union had since received legal advice that the changes would potentially break equality laws.
“We cannot sign an agreement which puts something illegal in place,” she said.
The council is proposing to abolish contracted overtime, which is paid even if it is not worked, introduce a single overtime allowance across all services, simplify travel expenses and expand the standard working week, while keeping employees’ total hours the same.
Out-of-hours social workers would be particularly affected by changes to the council’s ordinary working week, Unison said, because limiting their access to overtime rates would significantly reduce their take-home pay.
Willis said Unison had been keen to continue negotiations on the proposals, which have been approved by rival unions Unite and GMB.
But Ian Bowyer, cabinet member for finance, property and people at Plymouth Council, said: “We have done as much as we can to work with Unison and have now been forced into a position we have been trying to avoid.
“We believe it is not in the interests of the workforce to continue our relationship with Unison.”
The council said the changes were part of wider reforms which aim to save the council £18m, which would save 400 jobs. It added that the delay caused by negotiations with Unison had so far cost taxpayers £330,000.
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