Unison has accused a council-owned home care company of threatening its staff with redundancy in order to force through changes to their contracts, including reduced working hours.
Stockport Council set up Individual Solutions SK (ISSK) in 2009 as a more cost effective way of providing intermediate care and reablement services for adults and older people in the area.
According to a statement on Unison’s website, the company last month issued redundancy notices to 81 of its 146 home care workers, as well as 16 clerical staff and 16 managers.
However, ISSK has denied this, claiming instead that it formally advised Unison on 21 August of a 90-day consultation on a series of proposals to change staff terms and conditions, which it hopes will reduce unit costs and increase efficiency.
Iain Skelton, business manager for ISSK said: “For our home support service, the proposal is for a reduction in contracted hours and amendments to patterns of working. This is applicable to 83 employees, the stated intention being to lower company costs, not lose jobs.”
He added that staff attendance levels in the company had “seriously affected our ability to provide a cost effective service in a period of sustained austerity”. A consultation will also take place on proposed amendments to sickness absence policies and procedures.
But Unison’s local branch secretary, Angela Rayner, accused ISSK of forcing through its proposed changes using the 90-day consultation notice. Although employers are required to make efforts during the 90 days to secure the agreement of employees to the changes to their terms and conditions, they also have the option at the end of the period to dismiss staff and offer them new contracts. Anyone who decided not to sign and accept the revised terms and conditions would therefore lose their job.
“It’s basically telling staff: ‘If you don’t like it, we’ll make you redundant’,” said Rayner, adding that the employees she had spoken to were “devastated” by the move.
“When the service was in-house, overheads ran at £38 an hour – now they’re up to £53 an hour in just a few years, while our members have had a pay freeze,” she said. “It’s not labour costs that have gone up. This is down to a failure to manage the service and our members shouldn’t pay for that.”
Rayner said Unison would campaign to get the service and staff brought back in-house.
Skelton said: “ISSK is committed to providing high quality social care services on behalf of Stockport Council; we hope for these services to continue to be provided by our committed, competent and confident workforce throughout and beyond a period of restructuring and reorganisation.”