South East Wales

Union's strike ballot in Rhondda Cynon Taf job cuts row

Unison placards
Image caption Unison will ballot members over industrial action at Rhondda Cynon Taf council

A union representing workers at one of Wales' largest councils will ballot members over industrial action in a row about new staff contracts.

Unison, which represents more than 5,000 staff at Rhondda Cynon Taf council (RCT), has attacked plans which it says downgrade pay and conditions.

Russell Roberts, leader of the Labour-controlled council, said he was "staggered" unions "would rather see job losses and service cuts".

RCT is Wales' second biggest council.

Union officials were discussing the ballot action at a meeting of the local Unison branch at Pontypridd rugby club on Wednesday evening.

It will be the first ballot for industrial action carried out by Unison in response to council cuts in Wales.

Unison said the decision on a ballot was made after council chiefs pulled out of talks.

Funding gap

Unison said that the changes, which include a reduction in payments for weekend work and car mileage allowances, mean some staff will receive cuts to their take-home pay of up to 40%.

It wants the council to explore further voluntary redundancies and raising council tax bills to increase the local authority's revenue.

The council, which employs 10,000 workers, said it was trying to plug a £14m gap in its finances for the next financial year and said that hundreds of jobs were at risk if the plans were delayed.

Mr Roberts said: "We are disappointed that the trade unions are considering taking this course of action.

'Playing with livelihoods'

"The council remains engaged with the unions despite their approach and in the last week has tabled proposals to resolve a number of issues.

"We are staggered that the unions would rather see job losses and service cuts.

"The only alternatives they have brought to the table are redundancies or a double digit hike in council tax. This is not an approach we are prepared to accept.

"Such proposals from the unions are playing with the livelihoods of every single person employed by the council.

"Strike action by the unions will affect the public and the many vulnerable people who rely on the services the council provides.

"The changes to terms and conditions mean we can offer the assurance that there will be no compulsory redundancies and no cuts to services."

Peter Crews, RCT Unison branch secretary said he was very disappointed with the council's "confrontational approach".

"If the council had engaged with the trade unions in a meaningful way, or taken the advice of the WLGA, we might not be in this position," he added.

The union said no decision had been made on whether the outcome of any vote for industrial action would include strike action or whether it would involve all members, or selective groups.

Unison said during the recent bad weather, council staff worked around the clock to keep the roads of the county open, but under the current proposals if such a situation were to occur again "this service would be at risk because staff would not be adequately rewarded".

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