Unison is planning a seven-day strike after pay and conditions talks between Unison and Care UK in Doncaster collapsed.
The dispute at the provider’s learning disabilities service in Doncaster, which concerns plans to reduce pay, overtime, holidays and sick leave that Unison says could halve the earnings of some employees, has already seen one seven-day walk out by union members.
Unison regional organiser Jim Bell said while Care UK had offered to maintain staff pay at existing levels for a transitional period of 14 months during the talks, employees had been promised that their pay would be protected for the three-year duration of Care UK’s contract.
“When our members were transferred to Care UK last September it was on NHS terms and conditions and the wage bill was £7m,” he said.
“But Care UK’s contract is for £6.7m, so they took it on knowing that the wage bill alone was £7m. So their intention was to come in and smash staff terms and conditions because that’s the only way they could make a profit.”
Bell added that the provider had also not budged on its plans to cut holiday and sick leave entitlement.
The union now intends to go out on strike for a week from Wednesday 19 March.
Chris Hindle, director of Care UK’s learning disability service, said: “We are extremely disappointed to hear that Unison plans, once again, to disrupt the lives of over a hundred of Doncaster’s vulnerable residents.”
“Nethertheless, Care UK remains strong in its commitment to deliver a good quality, safe service in the event of any industrial action. We will ensure the people we support receive a good service – just as we did during the last strike.”
The provider said Unison had rejected its offers to offer transitional payments for longer “out of hand”.
“Despite knowing from the outset that whichever provider was chosen to deliver this service would have to reduce spend as well as improve the service, Unison were still demanding that no changes whatsoever are to be made to the package that employees enjoy,” said Hindle.
“No employee who transferred into the service has been made redundant, the basic pay of all employees within the service is being fully protected and all staff who transferred to Care UK will continue to be members of the valuable NHS final salary pension scheme.”
“The economic situation in the public sector means that something has to change in this service and we still believe our proposal, which protects jobs, basic pay and pensions, is the fairest way of delivering that change.”
However, Bell said the rejection of the transitional payments offer was backed by Unison members.
“We spent most of Friday in talks brokered by ACAS, who said Care UK had made an improved offer on transitional pay for us to consider,” he said.
“We considered it for about two minutes and rejected it. We then emailed our members to see if they disagreed with our decision and not a single person disagreed.”
Care UK took over the learning disability service, which supports 130 adults, from Doncaster Council last year.
Some 245 employees were transferred to Care UK from Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust as a result of the three-year deal.