Unions threaten strike action over pay alterations

UNION leaders this week threatened strike and legal action over cuts in pay for new council employees.

Three unions representing more than 2,000 current manual, office and home care staff condemned Scottish Borders Council’s decision, taken behind closed doors, to change terms and conditions, meaning less money for new staff from January 1.

Unite’s Tony Trench said: “There is total anger as to why the council should go ahead and do something like this.”

He criticised SBC for a lack of consultation with unions and threatened legal action.

Councillors agreed unanimously to remove overtime pay for weekend working, reduce the extra money paid for night working, and introduce ‘spot grades’ – abolishing a sliding scale of pay – for new employees at a meeting in private last month. Existing staff’s terms and conditions remain the same.

A council spokesman said: “The working environment has changed significantly over the last decade.

“Weekend working and shift flexibility is the norm in many industries and this eliminates the requirement to pay an allowance for working on a Saturday or Sunday.”

Mr Trench, representing more than 1,000 council workers, said: “We are disgusted. The stewards are really angry. It could lead to strike action, but it’s early doors.

“We believe there is a legal challenge to this. This will reduce people’s earning power. It’s a big issue, this is not just going to affect the workers at the council, this will affect the whole community.”

This week unions Unite, Unison and GMB were telling their members about the changes and discussing what action to take.

Meanwhile the SBC spokesman said the local authority had consulted with the unions.

He said: “For a considerable time ongoing discussions have taken place with the trade unions regarding pay containment and workforce flexibility.

“The intention to take the proposals to council for approval was discussed with the unions on November 15, and there were no concerns raised at that time.”

But Unison’s Janet Stewart, who represents over 840 office staff and home carers, said: “My clear understanding is that it was mentioned in passing in a 20-minute presentation (on November 15).

“There was certainly no detail given about different pay grades or different terms and conditions. It certainly didn’t flag up any alarm bells with anybody at that time. The minute of the meeting by the council makes no mention of it.”