Hundreds of social care staff may refuse to turn up for work at Central Bedfordshire Council next month in protest at pay cuts, local union officials have claimed.
The council announced earlier this year that staff would be sacked and re-employed on a new contract from 1 October; in effect forcing them to accept changes to terms and conditions and, for those earning more than £21,519, a 2% pay cut.
Trade union GMB has claimed up to 600 staff, mainly social care workers, have so far refused to sign the contracts, leading to concerns about whether essential services can be maintained.
Martin Foster, branch secretary of GMB in Bedfordshire, said the changes would demoralise social workers and care staff and put services at risk.
He accused the council of underestimating the possible impact on services: “Social services staff who have not signed the new contracts may believe they have been sacked or may have found jobs elsewhere.
“It seems the council has got itself into the position of not knowing how many staff it will have from 1 October.”
However, the council rejected claims that 600 employees had refused to sign the new contract. A spokesperson said 46 had refused and just over 400 had yet to indicate whether they would accept.
Council chief executive Richard Carr accused the GMB of “scaremongering”.
“The council will ensure vital social care services are provided in the coming weeks,” he said.
“We are hopeful that the majority of those staff who have yet to reply to earlier letters will respond positively to the proposed changes to their terms and conditions but, as a responsible service provider, we are also preparing contingency arrangements to respond to all eventualities.
“Our greatest concern about this is that customers of these services and their families may be unnecessarily concerned about continuity of care as a result of the GMB’s statement. Such scaremongering is wholly inappropriate. “
Central Bedfordshire is cutting 250 posts as part of plans to save £19m. It is hoped the pay cut would save a further 65 jobs.
GMB said it had no plans to ballot members on industrial action, but confirmed it would consider taking legal action for unfair dismissal if members were sacked for refusing to accept the new contract.
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