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Strike threat in council standoff in Brighton and Hove council workers pay dispute
Strike action could be on the cards after union representatives walked away from pay dispute talks claiming “a gun is being pointed at their head”.
Brighton and Hove City Council and trade unionists have been locked in discussions over ways to revamp the system of special allowances paid to about 75% of its 8,000-strong workforce.
But, with negotiations still in the early stages, representatives from GMB have told The Argus they are leaving the table.
They claim the council has “held a gun to their head” in a long-running dispute around pay to nine members of staff in its Cityparks department.
Following the breakdown, Mark Turner, of GMB, said the union would withdraw from all negotiations “full stop”.
However, The Argus understands Unison, the other major union representing council staff, remained in formal talks.
Mr Turner told The Argus: “This is serious, this is not squabbling. I’m not having anyone point a gun to my head.”
The Cityparks dispute revolves around up to £7,000 of individuals’ annual pay.
Union representatives claim they had come to an agreement with council chiefs 18 months ago but this had not been formalised.
However, The Argus understands the council had presented a new “take it or leave it” buy-out offer on the table this week.
If staff did not accept it by the end of March, it is believed workers’ contracts would be ended and they would be re-employed on new terms. The Argus understands the union’s deadline of midday yesterday for the council to withdraw its offer was missed.
Now union representatives have said they will launch immediate legal action and an industrial action campaign.
The local authority was last night unavailable to comment.
On the wider allowance issue, local authority bosses believe the current system is complex and not fit for purpose.
But union officials claim it will leave some of the affected staff, which includes bin men, care workers and teaching assistants, out of pocket A deadline of the end of March was set when politicians handed control of talks to officers last month. If this is not met, council bosses will take “all necessary steps” to complete the reform by October.
Any widespread industrial action could hit bin collections, care homes and schools.
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