Care UK managers in Doncaster have expressed disappointment that representatives of the union Unison have refused to sit round the table with ACAS, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, to try and find a solution to the threat of a strike affecting the service that provides support for local people with learning disabilities.
Care UK has already pledged to protect the basic levels of pay, maintained access to the generous final salary NHS pension scheme and no-one transferring into the service has been made redundant. The offer to meet with ACAS, without pre-conditions, was made yesterday and was quickly rejected out of hand by union officials.
Malcolm Chew, human resources director for Care UK’s Community Services division said: “Doncaster Council has made it very clear that there is no extra money for the Doncaster learning disability service so we need the unions to work with us to find a solution. That hasn’t happened over the past few weeks so we approached ACAS to see if their expertise could help but, sadly, Unison have simply refused to come to the table with them.”
“Disrupting services, particularly those on which vulnerable people depend, should be a last resort, not an opening gambit. We don’t understand on what grounds a responsible union would refuse to meet with ACAS for conciliation talks.”
The dispute is over changes to holiday entitlement and enhanced hourly rates. These changes are necessary because Doncaster Council, which commissions the service, is under enormous financial pressure so has required the provider to reduce the cost of the service to the Council as well as delivering an even better service. The need to reduce costs was acknowledged to employees by the previous provider.
As well as protecting jobs, basic pay and pension, Care UK has also already offered employees a deal which compensates them, in cash, for any change in earnings for 12 months.
Managers at the service have put in place robust contingency plans to ensure that the service will be both safe and high quality during any action, and that the people it supports will, as much as possible, be able to carry on as normal.