SBC staff’s industrial action vote

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A vote by Unison members at Scottish Borders Council has rejected proposed contract changes, a majority voting in favour of industrial action.

Scottish Borders Council plan a number of changes to staff terms and conditions as they continue to cope with increasing financial pressure on services and negotiations are still continuing, the council making a revised offer to the unions at the beginning of the week.

Unison regional organiser, Janet Stewart, said: “All the unions were back in with the council on Monday and we have another offer on the table which we are sending out to our members without any recommendation.”

Balloting its members earlier this month Unison urged them to reject SBC’s changes to their terms and conditions, arguing that the proposals were inequitable and could have a disproportionate effect on lower paid female workers.

The latest Unison union ballot will close on Thursday, December 12.

“The council have acknowledged the issues of inequality we raised and have offered two years protection to anyone affected,” added Ms Stewart.

“Our primary concern is that none of this is palatable but the council don’t actively want to take money off their workers.

“If we get a large rejection outcome we will further consult with our membership about industrial action.”

This week the result of the first ballot showed that council staff were not prepared to accept the initial proposal. Unison members of staff at SBC voted to protect local services and terms and conditions (80%), and 60% voted in favour of industrial action.

Changes include: removal of the top incremental pay point for grades 8-12 and chief officers; pay of staff at the top incremental pay point will be protected; night work enhanced pay will be reduced from 33.33% to 15%, and weekend enhancements will be removed; staff who lose 6% or more of their gross salary will get 12 month’s protection.

Responding to the ballot results, an SBC spokesperson said: “For the last eight months we have actively consulted with all the recognised trade unions on the proposed changes to

terms and conditions. We are currently in a 45-day statutory consultation period to discuss the proposals.

“Discussions with the trade unions and other staff forums have been ongoing and as a result of this positive dialogue we are reviewing aspects of the proposed changes to terms and conditions. A final revised offer was presented to the unions on November 25.

“There will be a further newsletter issued to SBC staff on the revised proposed terms and conditions this week.

“The council is determined to work with staff and trade unions in trying to protect jobs and ensure it continues to provide critical services.”

The Unison ballot result

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comes at the same time that Scottish Borders Council advertised nationally for two depute chief executives - positions that come with salaries of around £105,000.

Last month SBC confirmed that it was reducing the number of its department directors by 50 per cent (there are currently four) and the number of chief officers by almost 40 per cent, to reshape itself to meet the significant challenges facing public services in the future.

Explaining why the council were advertising the two senior posts an SBC spokesperson said: “The corporate restructure is progressing and an advert has been placed to recruit two depute chief executive posts at Scottish Borders Council.

“This will result in a slimmer, more focused and fit for purpose senior leadership team with the number of directors reducing by 50% and other chief officers by almost 40%.

“Against a backdrop of reducing public sector funding and an increased focus on partnership working, our aim is to deliver better, more responsive and integrated local services to the people of the Scottish Borders. To enable that to happen we need to reshape ourselves to meet these challenges and at the same time focus our resources on the delivery of frontline services.

“As the depute chief executives and service directors are appointed there will be further work undertaken to review the other tiers of management within the structure.

“Staff will be kept informed on progress and those affected by the review will be fully consulted on any future proposals.”