Bosses call for rethink on Doncaster council strike ballot

Doncaster Civic Offices. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP 02-01-15 Civic Offices MC 2
Doncaster Civic Offices. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP 02-01-15 Civic Offices MC 2

Council bosses are urging staff to think again over plans for a strike ballot affecting street cleaning and grave diggers.

Unison, Unite and the GMB announced yesterday that their members would vote on a possible strike, over changes to shift patterns and employment terms and conditions.

More on this story story: Doncaster grave diggers and road workers ballot for strikes

A yes vote could affect highway, grounds maintenance and street scene staff.

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Gill Gillies, Assistant Director Environment at Doncaster Council, said: “We’re disappointed that the trade unions are promoting industrial action amongst their members as we believe our proposals to modernise the service will safeguard staff by not cutting jobs, offering better pay and flexible shift patterns that ultimately mean many workers will work fewer days. We would encourage the unions to think again and continue to talk to us about modernising the service which is what these proposed changes are aiming to achieve.

“We need to improve how we serve local people and Doncaster’s environment and to do that we need to change and make the most of today’s technology. We are introducing more modern vehicles and equipment, improving learning and development opportunities including wanting to create more higher paid posts, reducing the number of lower paid posts and offering more apprentice opportunities.

“We have undertaken lengthy formal consultation with staff and have listened to their views. During the consultation period, we received concerns from some staff and unions regarding some people’s ability to work the new shift patterns due to personal circumstances. We have given repeated assurances that consideration will be given to any individual who for whatever reason feels unable to work shifts/weekends. Each request will be considered in line with the council’s flexible working strategy and each person’s personal circumstances will be given serious consideration.

“We want to make positive changes that are better for everyone all round and improve our services to local communities as a modern council.”

The council says it has had a lengthy consultation process to consider proposals to modernise the Street Scene and Highways Operations functions within Doncaster Council. Now changes are planned which it claims will modernise the service, leading to better value for money and improvements in street cleansing and the maintenance of roads and public open spaces like parks throughout the year.

The number of jobs covered by the proposed changes are 352. The proposals would mean reducing 41 posts – all covered by vacancies and no planned compulsory redundancies.

The council is also looking at reducing the number of depots from six to two to reduce costs given the council has less money due to Government cuts. North Bridge and Cantley Park depots would remain open whilst Bentley, Edlington, Wynthorpe at Dunsville and Oswin Avenue at Balby would close.

The authority says work change proposals would ensure it makes best use of the new vehicles and equipment and provide a more modern, effective service seven days a week, which can respond to service demand throughout the year, the changes will include some staff working more flexible shift patterns.

These new shift patterns will include street cleansing staff working a seven day fortnight rota and grounds maintenance teams working a new seasonal shift pattern.

Officials say the changes would also offer staff further opportunities to:

•Have their requests for amended, flexible or part time working patterns as per the Council’s flexible working strategy considered

•Upskill through training (including support to obtain driving and HGV licences) and increased training budgets

•Grounds staff to worker shorter days and four days per week in winter

•Cleansing staff to work fewer days per week and fewer working days per year

•Increased mechanisation, less physical effort

There will also be the opportunity for some staff to change their career path and current job role within the service area.

The proposals include a drop in the number of lower paid posts, with 28.6 less grade 5 posts. There would also be an increase in the number of posts at higher grades with 26.5 more grade 6 posts and 11 more grade 7 posts, and more apprenticeship opportunities.

The council says introduction of this new way of working would mean there will be the introduction of an all-inclusive allowance for those staff affected by the new work rota with a 3.5 per cent risein pay for seven day fortnight which would mean on average an extra £677 per year

Due to closure of the depots a relocation allowance will also be paid to those staff whose journey to and from work increases, as per the council’s policy.