Unite members vote for industrial action after council threatens to take on contractors to clear winter roads.

The impasse between Scottish Borders Council and its roadworkers who are members of the Unite union doesn’t look like ending any time soon after the workers voted again to undertake industrial action.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 31st October 2019, 12:39 pm
Scottish Borders Council will take on contractors to help clear our roads this winter if the Unite strike goes ahead in bad weather.
Scottish Borders Council will take on contractors to help clear our roads this winter if the Unite strike goes ahead in bad weather.

This follows the news that the council is prepared to bring in contractors to manage our roads 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 has 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.

However, the move to bring in outside contractors has angered the union, which claims this will cost the council more than it would to pay its own workers.

Unite confirmed today that its membership in the roads department have voted for industrial action following a two-week-long ballot.

The union revealed that 77% have voted to take strike action and by 84 per cent to take action short of a strike on a 76 per cent turnout.

The union’s members previously took 24-hours industrial action on August 29 in opposition to detrimental changes being imposed to their terms and conditions.

The further industrial action will take place during the winter season when the roads workers maintain effective transport links and services in the Borders region.

Willie Thomson, Unite’s regional industrial officer, said: “Rather than negotiate with Unite to settle this dispute, Scottish Borders Council has chosen to ignore its workers and spend taxpayers’ money on contractors at rates higher than what our members were offered. “Unite members have overwhelmingly voted to fight against the attacks on their terms and conditions, and to protect the long-standing collective agreements we have in place.

2The workers are determined to be respected by their employer and they are righty aggrieved about the injustice being imposed on them.”

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 programmer.

“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 minimized during this industrial action.”