Care workers who decline pay cut face contract termination

AROUND 300 staff providing care for people in the Borders with learning disabilities have been given until July 1 to accept cuts in wages, holiday entitlement and sick pay.

And if the employees of the Galashiels-based Brothers of Charity (BoC) refuse to accept the changes to their terms and conditions by that date, their contracts of employment will be terminated.

The deal is set out in a letter sent at the weekend to staff providing a range of key services for people with learning disabilities, including nursing home care, day support services and supporting living services across the region.

Last month, BoC director of services Liam Byrne announced a series of staff meetings to discuss how the organisation, which is paid by Scottish Borders Council to deliver its services, can cope with a five per cent cut in that support, already agreed by elected members in February and relayed to the company in March.

Mr Byrne said the reduction meant BoC would have to find savings of £272,000 with cuts due to take affect in the last six months of the current financial year.

“Given that around 85 per cent of our income is spent on pay costs, it is necessary for us to consider changes to employee terms and conditions,” he told us.

Mr Byrne revealed that a 1.5 per cent pay cut would save £70,000, while a two-day reduction in annual leave along with changes to BoC’s occupational sick pay scheme would make up the balance.

And in his new letter to staff, that prediction, despite a series of staff meetings and a survey seeking preferred amendments to contracts of employment, has come to pass.

One employee who leaked the latest letter told us: “I am a hard working and dedicated support worker who wholeheartedly and passionately believes in what he is doing.

“However, I leak these documents because I feel very let down by previous and present governments, by local government and totally sold out by the company I work so hard for.”

From October 9, the current hourly rate of pay will be cut from £7.65 to £7.56, on Mr Byrne’s own admission returning earnings to their 2008 levels.

From October 1, the current 225 hours holiday per annum will be cut to 210 hours for staff with less than five years’ service, the reduction incrementally imposed for longer-serving employees.

And from that same date, occupational sick pay will be savaged.

At present, staff, during their first four months with the company, are entitled to one month of full pay; for those employed from four months to a year, the scheme allows a month on full pay and two months on half pay. Payments then rise to a maximum of six months on full pay and six months on half pay for staff employed for five years or more.

From October 1, there will be no entitlement to occupational sick pay for the first three days of any absence and no pay for anyone until they have been employed for six months. During their second year of service, BoC employees will be entitled to four weeks on full pay and four weeks on half pay, rising to a maximum of 12 weeks full and 12 weeks half pay for those employed for five years or more.

The new terms, wrote Mr Byrne, are “the most appropriate in enabling us to meet the financial savings we are required to achieve”, adding: “The changes reflect the outcome of the survey and the expressed preference of the majority of respondents.”

And he stressed that if the new conditions are not accepted by July 1 or if staff decline to accept the variations “we will find it necessary to formally terminate that contract of employment ... in time to implement the proposed changes”.

Mr Byrne concluded: “Any new contract could come into effect immediately after the existing contract ended, thus protecting your length of service and other, unchanged terms should you accept it.

“It is very much hoped this course of action will not become necessary.”