Council road workers vote for strike action

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Scottish Borders Council road workers who are members of the Unite union have voted for strike action over a row about terms and conditions.

The council, in an attempt to bring equality to overtime rates, has reduced overtime payments to road workers, who can accrue more extra work than those who work in an office.

Unite the union today confirmed that its membership in the roads department had voted for industrial action in a postal ballot.

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Of those voting, 86.4% voted for strike action, and 95.7% for action short of a strike, in a 78% turnout.

Unite said the changes to the road workers’ terms and conditions included a reduction in pension accrual as a result of cuts to pensionable overtime rates, and the removal of paid travel time.

Strike action, and action short a strike, is expected to take place from mid-July 2019 to mid-October 2019.

The union said there had been “no meaningful consultation or negotiation” before the council’s announcement of these imposed changes on April 15 and are calling for the changes to be reversed.

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If this does not happen, the union has threatened to pursue claims for illegal deduction of wages.

The ballot result comes in the wake of news that SBC paid out £613,042 in exit packages for departing staff last year.

Willie Thomson, Unite regional industrial officer, said: “Scottish Borders Council’s behaviour towards our members in the roads department has been disgraceful.

“The council decision-makers seem more intent in targeting this group of hard-working staff who have to brave all the elements, while at the same time being very relaxed and happy to agree exit packages for a number of individuals in management worth more than £100,000.”

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“The public in the Borders should be rightly asking why are our councillors and council officials ripping up long-established contractual arrangements with roads department workers which cost a fraction of these exit packages.

“If the council thinks our members are a soft touch then this strong mandate to proceed with strike action and action short of a strike should focus a few minds in the coming weeks.

“Unite will do everything we can to deliver fairness for this group of workers.”

Last month, a council spokesperson said Unite closed off talks on the matter.

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The 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.”