Unite members to hold industrial action at Scottish Borders Council

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Unite the union has confirmed that its membership in the Roads Department at Scottish Borders Council (SBC) will hold twenty-four hours of industrial action on August 29.

In June, 86.4 per cent of Unite’s members voted for strike action, and 95.7 per cent for action short of a strike, in a 78 per cent turnout. The day of industrial action coincides with a full council meeting where a rally and protest will take place outside SBC Headquarters at Bowden Road, Newtown St Boswells.

The dispute follows a series of detrimental changes being imposed by SBC to the terms and conditions of Unite’s membership in the local authority’s Roads Department. The changes include a reduction in pension accrual as a result of cuts to pensionable overtime rates, and the removal of paid travel time.

Willie Thomson, Unite regional industrial officer, said: “Unite will hold a day of industrial action on the 29th of August to coincide with the full meeting of Scottish Borders Council to ensure elected representatives and officials fully understand the anger of our members. The workers in the Roads Department have been treated with contempt and the latest efforts by the council to draft in contracted workers to cover workers taking action is disgraceful. Instead of positively engaging with the workers and Unite, the council seem intent on escalating the dispute. Unite will explore every legal avenue to challenge this aggressive action.”

“Unite also believes that there is a strong legal case that workers are being offered unlawful financial inducements to break the existing collective bargaining agreements. If this is the case, then Scottish Borders Council could end up facing a legal bill for more than £160,000, which is a fraction of the cost required to settle this dispute. Unite would, once again, urge Scottish Borders Council to get back round the negotiating table to settle this dispute, which we believe can be easily achieved if councillors swiftly intervene.”

A Scottish Borders Council spokesman said: “The Council is simply seeking to apply the previously agreed terms and conditions of employment which were negotiated and agreed with the recognised Trades Unions, including Unite who are a part of that agreement.

“The Council values its staff and is committed to ensuring they are treated fairly and equitably, whichever service they work within. There had been anomalies in the overtime rate paid to a very small number of staff within the roads section. In addition to receiving travel expenses in line with HMRC rates a small group of staff were also being paid for the time taken to commute to their workplace. These matters have been addressed, providing consistency and equity across the organisation.

“There had been open dialogue for a number of months and the Council continues to try and engage Unite in meaningful discussion on this issue. In line with their current national campaign, Unite representatives’ approach has been to escalate these issues to industrial action rather than attempting to resolve the matter.

“We will continue to engage with the Trades Unions and are confident that our contingency plans are utilising all legal means to ensure that our day-to-day service is not significantly impacted.”