A threatened strike by refuse, housing and customer service workers is back on after UNISON claimed that Huntingdonshire District Council “refuse to implement an agreed pay deal”.
Council workers will take one day of strike action on Friday October 6, followed by an indefinite work to rule from Monday 9 October.
A UNISON spokesperson said today: “We tried to end a long-running pay dispute earlier this month when our members voted to accept a 5% pay rise — one of three offers made by the council.
“But the Lib Dem/Labour/Green/independent coalition running the council refused to implement its deal and decided to prolong the dispute, leaving staff with no choice but to walk out.”
The spokesperson added: “Instead, council bosses have just launched an all-staff survey on the three offers.
“The council has never polled staff vote before and is only doing so now in a bid to undermine collective bargaining.”
UNISON Eastern regional organiser Cameron Matthews said: “Huntingdonshire District Council has taken us through the looking glass. Instead of ending this pay dispute they’ve decided to provoke workers into striking.
“When residents’ bins go unemptied or they can’t access important local services, they should be clear that the blame lies squarely at the door of these councillors and senior managers.
“It’s particularly disappointing to see Labour, Lib Dem and Green councillors behaving like this when all three parties have manifesto commitments to greater trade union rights.
“Council bosses can easily avoid industrial action by giving workers the pay rise they’ve agreed to.”
Huntingdonshire District Council (HDC) say it is preparing for planned industrial action.
“This is for all UNISON members employed by the council,” said their spokesperson.
“Late yesterday afternoon HDC was informed that members of the UNISON union intend to take strike action on Friday 6 October in relation to a pay dispute relating to the pay award for 2023/24.
“If the issue is not resolved, they then intend to pursue a period of industrial action in the form of an ongoing period of work to rule from Monday 9 October.”
The spokesperson said that talks between the council, its employee representation group (ERG – who represent all council staff) and UNISON had made progress since previous threat of strike action “and three new pay options were put forward, linked to higher than anticipated interest payments on bank balances.
“The council proposed three options to ERG and UNISON in response to UNISON members raising a dispute regarding this year’s pay award.
“These offers were subject to engagement and feedback from all staff members. We received confirmation from UNISON that members have voted in favour of accepting one of the pay award options put forward.
“While they have expressed their preference for which option they want implemented, the terms of the offer always included gaining the views of all staff on their preferred pay award.
“This process is underway and being led by an independent organisation.”
The spokesperson added: “In line with these timeframes, we have further talks scheduled with UNISON on Wednesday 4 October, to discuss the results of the all-staff ballot and to seek a resolution to this year’s pay dispute.
“Work will continue to resolve the dispute, and the session already in the diary offers the opportunity to do exactly that.
“However contingency planning is underway to seek to limit the impact of any industrial action on residents if the action goes ahead.
“Once contingency arrangements are in place, the HDC website will be kept up to date with the latest information about any disruption to services.”
Cllr Martin Hassall, executive councillor for corporate and shared services, said: “We have not refused to implement any pay agreement. In a pay award that affects all staff; members have been clear that we must get the views of all employees.
“Following lengthy and transparent discussions with UNISON and our employee representatives group, where we openly discussed the financial situation of the council, a clear offer was made with the agreement that we would carry out a transparent process that would seek the views of all our staff on the pay offers that were put forward.
“The voluntary agreement with the council and UNISON, who represent an important but small element of our overall staff base, was agreed to in the spirit of constructive relations.
“It is therefore disappointing that UNISON have gone back on the agreement to seek the views of all staff and that they have signalled their intention to take this course of action.
“Talks are scheduled for the 4 October, and we very much hope that industrial action can be avoided or resolved quickly.”
“Arrangements will be put in place to ensure that we can maintain our frontline services as best we can on the days affected but some services will have to be prioritised at the expense of others and we would ask for the public’s patience.
“If there are any changes to services, then we will communicate these via our website and social media.”
UNISON said today that an earlier press release “incorrectly said the council had agreed a pay deal of 5% plus £1,000.
“In fact, the £1,000 lump sum was paid in March and therefore was part of the 2022/23 pay year. We apologise for this error.”
UNISON is the UK’s largest union. It has more than 1.3 million members providing public services – in local government, the NHS, education, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.
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