Social workers in Doncaster could be forced to accept a pay cut and worse terms and conditions or risk losing their jobs, Unison has claimed.
The union has accused Doncaster Council of “holding a gun to its head” during negotiations over proposals to change the contracts of almost 10,000 employees.
As part of its drive to save £25m over the next year, the council has proposed either a pay cut of 4% for all staff or reducing the working week to 35 hours with a corresponding pay cut, which Unison has argued equates to 4.5%.
Other proposals include reducing annual leave entitlements and the car mileage allowance. “The latter will hit care workers hard,” said Robin Symonds, regional organiser for Unison.
The council entered into negotiations with local union officials on 3 October, setting a deadline for reaching an agreement of 14 November.
However, the council this week sent s188 notices to the unions informing them of its intention to implement the changes by dismissing and re-engaging staff – if the negotiations are not successful.
Symonds said: “It’s not helpful; why couldn’t they wait until 14 November, when negotiations are due to conclude?
“Negotiating pay cuts isn’t easy at the best of times, but to then have a gun held to our heads and for the council to say ‘if you don’t’ agree we’ll sack and re-engage the whole workforce’ It’s an inflammatory act.”
Unison has asked the council to rescind the notice while negotiations are ongoing.
“If they refuse, we would need to consider whether to continue negotiating,” said Symonds.
Doncaster’s director of finance and corporate services, Simon Wiles, said the council would “continue to make every effort” to reach an agreement with the unions.
“We are conducting regular and meaningful discussions with trade unions on how best to achieve significant savings through changes to terms and conditions of employment,” he said.
“[However,] the stark reality is we need to make savings of up to £7.5m from changes to terms and conditions in order to balance our planned 2012-13 budget.
“We are following the formal collective consultation process because ultimately if we are unable to achieve our preferred outcome of reaching a collective agreement, one option available to us to bring about these changes is to terminate and re-engage staff contracts of employment. This is not our preferred outcome.”
Separate to the negotiations over terms and conditions, the council has announced it will charge employees £700 a year to park – even if they need to use their cars for work, as many social workers do.
Wiles said: “By opening up staff car parks, we will generate income of £400,000 for the council which will help reduce the need for cuts to frontline services and further job losses.”
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