Last minute bid to avert Doncaster Council strike during St Leger festival

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Talks are expected to be held today as bosses at Doncaster Council bid to prevent a strike during the St Leger Festival.

Some 200 trade union members, including street cleaners and grave diggers, said they would walk out for 10 days from tomorrow, the opening day of one the festival which marks one of the town’s biggest events of the year, the St Leger horse race.

But it is understood the council’s chief executive, Jo Miller, wrote to the GMB and Unison unions last night putting forward an alternative plan to proposals over changes to shift patterns and terms and conditions of employment, in a bid to avert the action.

GMB organiser Bob McNeill said: “There may be discussions taking place today.”

Conciliation service ACAS is expected to be involved in any talks today.

The strike action would hit departments including highways, grounds maintenance and street scene.

Ashley Harper, Unison area organiser, said this week that the union recognised councils were under immense pressure, but staff should not have to bear the brunt of the burden.

He said the council had not listened to the views of those affected.

He said: “As it is, the council now intends to ignore the very people who it relies upon to keep services running and instead will push through changes that are unfair, unworkable and potentially unsafe. The fact that we received an 86.5 per cent vote in favour of strike action shows that there is a clear mandate from our members for this industrial action and so we urge the council to reconsider its stance.”

Bob McNeill, GMB organiser said: “Our members have real concerns over health and safety, changes to shift patterns, longer working hours and the impact to their family life.

“This industrial action is a last resort.”

Jo Miller, council chief executive, said services had to be modernised and the proposals will do that and safeguard staff by not cutting jobs, offering better pay and flexible shift patterns.

She said: “These teams provide services - cutting the grass, cleaning the streets just two examples – that are needed seven days a week not five and we have worked hard to meet unions’ concerns and make concessions they wanted including preserving jobs in the public sector.

“I am disappointed that the unions are taking deliberate, targeted and unnecessary strike action when Doncaster is on show to the rest of the world for its jewel in the crown – the St Leger Festival – that is known to millions internationally This appears to be an extraordinary own goal by them and I urge them to reconsider.”

The St Leger Festival runs in Doncaster from Friday until September 13.