No end in sight yet to dispute at council

Talks are set to continue as a ballot of members goes ahead
Talks are set to continue as a ballot of members goes ahead

Trade union reps are consulting East Dunbartonshire Council staff on further strike action as a major industrial dispute drags on.

Although progress in negotiations resulted in four days’ striking by waste services workers being cancelled earlier this month, no final agreement has been reached and the unions are now holding consultative ballots with a view to their future course of action.

Andrew Polson,  joint council leader at EDC, said:  “We committed to working with the trades unions to resolve this dispute and significant progress was made when we reached agreement on alternatives to reductions to terms and conditions, including annual leave and overtime.  

“Whilst we would all have preferred to reach agreement, progress has been made on the redundancy payments framework and it is now time for our employees to have their say on the revised position.

“I would hope that the dispute can be resolved through the consultative ballot.”

The other joint council leader, Vaughan Moody added:  “The reality of the challenging financial climate is that the redundancy payments framework we changed was not sustainable and it was far beyond the national average.

“With the continued reduction in real terms to local government funding, most other councils in Scotland have also made significant changes to reduce their policies over the past few years.  

“It is essential that East Dunbartonshire does the same to address our ongoing financial challenges and to ensure best value of the public pound.”

The three unions involved in the dispute are GMB, Unison and Unite. They continue to maintain work to rule and overtime bans while consulting their members.

Craig Bell, chairman of the local Unison branch, said:  “The talks were very productive and we reached agreement on the three major changes to our members’ terms and conditions. The outstanding issues relate to proposed changes to voluntary redundancy.”

The current offer from the council would see 10 added years of pension entitlement changed to 3.5, compensation falling from 66 weeks to 45 weeks, and a “clawback” of redundancy compensation affecting people who return to the public sector within a defined period, currently proposed at 2.25 years.

Mr Bell added: “We offered to recommend to our members that we would accept five added years of pension but the council said they simply could not move beyond 3.5 years.

“We went into negotiations in good faith and if agreement on this point had been achieved it could have been the end of the dispute.”

Mr Bell added that Unison’s consultative ballot will have a deadline of August 15.