Nearly 400 social care staff at Derbyshire Council have been threatened with the sack after refusing to accept pay cuts of up to £4,000.
The East Midlands authority told staff before Christmas that it would be introducing a “single status” arrangement from 1 April to equalise pay for all staff after 1,400 roles were re-evaluated.
The local Unison branch warned that many staff were considering leaving care roles for retail after hearing of pay cuts of up to £4,000 for care workers, although these will not be implemented for three years.
Staff will also be hit by the loss of other entitlements. Night workers in care homes, for example, will lose £1,000 in enhancements, and domiciliary care workers will be paid time-and-a-third instead of time-and-a-half for Sunday shifts.
The council gave staff until 31 December to sign the deal, but 325 front-line care workers in adults’ services and 50 in the children and younger adults’ services have refused.
“The council has handled this badly,” said Gary Ransford, chair of Unison’s Derbyshire County branch, which has 13,000 members. “They’ve lost the trust of the entire workforce and they’re oblivious to the chaos they’re causing.
“The council broke an agreement to use an alternative job evaluation scheme and it’s been downhill since. They have bypassed the union and gone straight to the workforce to ask them to sign up.
“As far as we’re concerned, it’s been threats and bullying for some considerable time.”
Unison members are concerned that the new job evaluation scheme would not allow social workers to progress up the pay ladder after qualifying, Ransford said, and had set up a negotiating group of practitioners to discuss ways to resolve the matter.
“A lot of people have been saying they’re fed up with Derbyshire County Council and they’re talking about working in Tesco because it’s more rewarding than working for Derbyshire,” he said. “That’s typical.”
A Derbyshire Council spokesperson denied Unison’s claim that members’ views had been “bypassed”, and insisted that unions had been “involved and consulted all along”. They failed to respond to the revised job evaluations in October 2009, when they had the chance, the spokesperson said.
She said senior social workers may lose between £500 and £600 but they will be eligible to apply for a lead practitioner role. “We got the best deal we could that is affordable and takes account of services,” she said.
Some 5,600 adult care staff and 4,250 in children’s services have signed new contracts, the spokesperson said, corresponding to a 90% acceptance rate. Workers who had received a dismissal notice have a final chance to sign by 5 February.
In a previous statement, the council said: “We have no choice about single status – it’s a national agreement to iron out inequalities in pay and conditions among employees.”
It added: “Our adult care basic pay bill increases by £4m immediately rising to more than £6m when employees get to the top of their grade.”