Scottish Borders Council to take on contractors to clear winter roads in the event of strike

Scottish Borders Council will bring in contractors to manage the area’s roads this winter if the Unite union extends its industrial action to March.

Wednesday, 30th October 2019, 3:10 pm
Updated Wednesday, 30th October 2019, 4:44 pm
Scottish Borders Council is set to use contractors for gritting this winter.

As a category one responder under the Civil Contingencies Act, the local authority says it is taking steps to ensure it keeps the public safe and roads open during the winter months.

And it claimed the service will be more flexible than it is currently, which could benefit more early-morning drivers.

The dispute over standby payments for road workers stems from a move by the council earlier this year to put a stop to road workers claiming “a higher rate of overtime than they were entitled to under the agreed terms and conditions” and “for time travelling to work when working overtime”.

Unite claimed its workers terms and conditions had been changed, which the council denies.

Chief executive of the council, Tracey Logan, said: “Due to the ongoing industrial action by a small number of roads department staff in some of our depots, we have been in discussions with experienced contractors around the availability of resources so that we can meet our legal obligations this winter.

“We understand Unite plans to ballot relevant staff on extending the current industrial action to March next year.

“Bizarrely, they are arguing this is because we are making use of contractors to fulfil our obligations as a category one responder – we are, but only because of the ongoing industrial action by Unite which has resulted in staff opting not to participate in the out-of-hours winter maintenance programme.

“Unite representatives have issued a list of demands for increased payments which would only apply to an all-male group of workers such as a standby payment 275 per cent higher than all other council workers. It is astounding that Unite representatives would actively seek to discriminate against female workers.

“We now have well-developed plans in place with a number of contractors and believe there will be absolutely no impact on our normal service this winter.

“In fact, the flexibility that these contractors provide has opened up opportunities to pre-treat roads differently in some areas, which may actually benefit more drivers, particularly those travelling earlier in the morning.

“Our contingency plans continue to make use of all legal means to ensure that not only is our winter service unaffected, but that any disruption to our day-to-day roads operations are absolutely minimised during this industrial action.”

Unite the Union has declined to comment on this matter at this time.