Council road workers in Borders to be balloted over possible strike action

Scottish Borders Council's Newtown headquarters.
Scottish Borders Council's Newtown headquarters.

Council road workers in the Borders are being balloted on possible strike action over changes to their employment terms and conditions.

Summer standby duties for Scottish Borders Council’s road workers are currently voluntary, but their bosses are seeking to make it mandatory to bring them into line line with other staff at the local authority.

The council has told unions that not having the same terms and conditions for all staff could leave it open to gender pay discrimination claims as the mainly male roads team is not on call over the summer but mainly female care home workers are.

Summer standby payments currently earn road workers £85.31, but the council is offering to up that to £101 as long as such shifts become mandatory.

The two main unions representing road workers here, Unite and Unison, have been in discussions with the council for weeks, but talks with the former have broken down, meaning that its members will now be balloted between June 4 and June 25 to decide if they wish to take industrial action.

Any resulting strike action would be expected to take place from mid-July to mid-October, and an overtime ban and call-out ban are also under consideration.

Mark Lyon, Unite’s industrial officer, said: “The imposition of detrimental changes to Unite members’ terms and conditions at Scottish Borders Council will not go unopposed.

“The changes rip up all our long-established contractual arrangements.

“If the council think our members in the roads department are an easy target, then they will have to think again because the strength of feeling is resolute.

“The council have to get back round the negotiating table to undo the mess they have created.”

Unison, on the other hand, is not considering strike action.

Kaymare Hughes, its Borders branch secretary, said: “Unison are not balloting their members on industrial action and are continuing to talk to Scottish Borders Council in relation to the roads review.”

A council spokesperson said: “The council is applying terms and conditions of employment which were negotiated and agreed with the recognised trade unions, including Unite.

“The council values its staff and is committed to ensuring they are treated fairly and equitably, whichever service they work within.

“There had been an anomaly in the overtime rate paid to a very small number of staff within the roads section which has been addressed.

“There had been open dialogue for a number of months, but, regrettably, Unite was unwilling to engage in meaningful discussion on this issue.”