Following a 13th meeting with trade unions in Doncaster today, Care UK has confirmed that changes to services supporting people with learning disabilities will be introduced over the coming months.
The changes will have no impact on the services themselves, which support 140 people to live their day to day lives, and will not affect the basic pay or pension rights of anyone working within the service. Changes including revised enhanced hourly rates and sick and annual leave arrangements for those transferred to Care UK have now been subject to full consultation and need to be introduced to make the service sustainable within the reduced funding available from Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council.
More than half of the colleagues working within the service when it transferred to Care UK in September 2013 have already agreed to the new arrangements, which include a compensation payment equivalent to more than 14 months’ salary protection.
Care UK’s director for learning disability services, Chris Hindle said, “It is disappointing that we’ve been unable to reach agreement with the trade unions, despite full consultation in 13 meetings since November. However the majority of the affected colleagues have now formally accepted the changes, some with the assistance of their trade union representatives.
“These agreements show that many people within the service recognise that reduced funding means that some changes to terms are inevitable if we are to go on supporting the people who use the service, and that the changes Care UK has proposed are a reasonable way of addressing a very difficult situation.
“We have done everything possible to resolve the outstanding issues. Doncaster Council has again confirmed to us, within the past two weeks, that no additional funding will be made available to the service.
“We have, over the course of 13 meetings and two sessions convened with the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), made a number of new proposals to address some of the concerns raised by colleagues, including increased transitional arrangements to compensate individuals for the changes for the next 14 months. Unison has not been willing to make practical sets of proposals to reflect the reduced funding available, saying that the service should be run at a loss, which is not a credible stance.
“We now need to make the changes which will ensure the sustainability of this important service. Consultation has been comprehensive, and we will be writing to the minority of colleagues who have not accepted the new terms over the next two days to explain what this will mean for them personally. We will be inviting colleagues to face to face meetings to confirm the changes.
“It is essential, both for users of the service, and for colleagues, that we put the new arrangements in place and end the uncertainty which Unison’s failure to adopt a constructive approach and reliance on strike action have created. We have consistently made the point that there is no more money – the service is commissioned by the local authority and we are all aware that public sector funded services are facing a genuine struggle to meet a growing demand with tighter and tighter budgets. Whichever provider was chosen to deliver this service would have had to reduce costs in some way and I believe our proposal is the fairest way to ensure we can continue to deliver high quality support in Doncaster. The fact that the majority of colleagues affected have now confirmed their agreement to the amended terms is encouraging.”
Responding to Unison’s decision to take a further 14 days of strike action during May, Chris Hindle said: “Further strike action is simply unnecessary and will not change the position in any way. Our contingency plans have delivered an excellent level of safe, high quality support for service users during previous strikes. The number of colleagues choosing not to join Unison’s action has increased in comparison to the beginning of the dispute. We are confident that a tried and tested contingency operation will again prevent any disruption to service users.”
Care UK has rejected the suggestion that any individual might see a 50 per cent reduction in their salary. Under its proposals, the basic pay of all employees within the service is being fully protected and all colleagues who transferred to Care UK will continue to be members of the valuable NHS final salary pension scheme and have future pay increments protected. Most importantly, there have been no job losses - no employee who transferred into the service has been made redundant.
The dispute is over the need to address existing generous enhanced rates for working evenings and weekends and to bring holiday entitlement more into line with what is normal for the sector – 25 days plus bank holidays is on offer for full time employees as opposed to 33 days paid holiday (not including bank holidays) which many currently enjoy.