Wiltshire Council top boss not interested in 'averting industrial action' as traffic wardens plan eight-day strike
Terence Herbert, Wiltshire’s Town Clerk, has agreed to attend a meeting with GMB next week, despite writing to the union to say that ‘averting industrial action is not the driver’ for talks
GMB, the trade union for Wiltshire council staff, has called an eight-day strike by traffic wardens from 10 to 17 December.
The dispute is over a proposal by the council to remove a 10 per cent contractual uplift from 350 staff, that would lead to a pay cut of £2000 by traffic wardens, and a pay cut of £3500 for social workers.
Staff in highways, building maintenance, leisure centres, and specialist care staff are also affected.
GMB has written to all Wiltshire councillors, asking that they intervene to persuade Town Clerk Terence Herbert to take the talks seriously, in order to avoid strike action .
Keith Roberts, GMB Regional Organiser said:
“GMB is deeply committed to finding a resolution that would avoid the need for industrial action.
“We have talks with the council on 9 December facilitated by ACAS, with a further day of talks scheduled for the following week, if they prove necessary.
“In GMB’s experience, strikes can be averted with good will on both sides, if both sides are seeking a resolution.
“Unfortunately, while the Town Clerk, Terence Herbert, has agreed to attend talks on 9 December, he wrote to GMB on 30 November to say that ‘averting industrial action is not the driver’ for the council talking to us via ACAS.
“Our members who are facing a 10 per cent pay cut - or 20 per cent pay cut in the case of social workers - have a legitimate concern, and one that is grounds for a lawful trades dispute.
“The industrial action can only be resolved by talking, and GMB remains committed to talks which actually are focussed on averting industrial action.
“GMB are astonished that the council clerk has felt the need to communicate to the union in advance to say that they are not interested in talks focussed on ‘averting industrial action.’
“We are also astonished that the council are declining to provide information that would help GMB members to better understand the council’s position, and that might therefore facilitate a resolution.
“There is a fork in the road here, the council can work with GMB to resolve this dispute, or they can choose conflict. GMB would prefer a deal, and it is disturbing that Mr Herbert seems to prefer a fight.”
Contact: Keith Roberts on 07852 182348 or GMB Press Office on 07958 156846 or at email@example.com
Notes to Editors:
 The email sent to Councillors on 1 December:
Dear Wiltshire Councillor
As I am sure you are aware, GMB members working in parking services will be taking 8 days of strike action from 10th until 17th December 2022 in Wiltshire. Our members took two previous days of strike action in May, during each of those days, no parking enforcement notices were issued.
The strike is due to a proposal to remove a contractual, unsocial hours uplift from about 350 staff. As this is a term in their contract, the “plussage” (as it is called in the contracts) cannot easily be removed by the council without the voluntary consent of the staff. Our members have unanimously voted more than once to decline that change to their contract.
A seven day strike that would have commenced on 30th June was called off by GMB, as we believed that a deal had been reached. This would have allowed existing staff to receive the uplift for the duration of their own contracts, while allowing the council to recruit new starters on different terms and conditions.
Technically, this agreement reached between GMB and the council via ACAS on 29th June was referred back to a “working party on terms and conditions” which held a meeting on 6th July including Wiltshire HR, the council’s service heads, and all three unions. This meeting agreed with GMB’s proposal. A compromise had been achieved which satisfied both the council’s desire for change going forward, while protecting the contractual pay of existing staff.
Unfortunately, out of the blue on 9th August, the chief executive, Terence Herbert, advised the unions that the agreement made via ACAS to offer lifetime pay protection for existing staff would not be honoured by the council. Instead, only 4 years protection would be offered.
In GMB’s experience it is incredibly rare for an employer to renege on a deal made via ACAS, and unheard of in the public sector.
At this stage the council said that they did not believe that lifetime pay protection was lawful, and that the lifetime protection would be too expensive. Both of these claims are wrong.
GMB believes that the argument that offering different terms and condition for different staff would be unlawful is manifestly wrong. Indeed, the council already pays some leisure centre staff a 10% uplift, while not offering the same uplift to other leisure centre staff who were TUPE transferred into the council. GMB has asked the council to clarify which statutes and case law they believe make this unlawful. Unfortunately, ACAS tell us that the council is declining to give GMB this information.
GMB also believes, that the difference in cost between 4 year pay protection and lifetime pay protection would be relatively small. This is because there would be staff churn, tapering off the number of staff receiving the pay protection over years, but also because the council will need to offer market supplements to attract new staff, reducing the pay protection gap. We have asked that the council provides their modelling to us of the difference in costs. Unfortunately, ACAS tell us that the council is declining to give GMB this information.
GMB fails to see how the council can meaningfully engage in talks, if they are signalling in advance that they will not explain how they have arrived at their position.
GMB is deeply committed to finding a resolution that would avoid the need for industrial action. We have talks with the council on 9th December, facilitated by ACAS, with a further day of talks scheduled for the 16th, if they prove necessary.
In GMB’s experience, strikes can be averted with good will on both sides, if both sides are seeking a resolution. Unfortunately, while Mr Herbert has agreed to attend talks on 9th December, he wrote to GMB on 30th November to say that “averting industrial action is not the driver” for the council talking to us via ACAS.
I trust that you understand that staff facing a 10% pay cut, (or 20% pay cut in the case of social workers) have a legitimate concern, and one that is grounds for a lawful trades dispute. The industrial action can only be resolved by talking, and GMB remains committed to talks which are focussed on averting industrial action.
GMB are astonished that the council has felt the need to communicate to the union in advance to say that they are not interested in talks focussed on “averting industrial action”. We are also astonished that the council are declining to provide information that would help GMB members to better understand the council’s position, and that might therefore facilitate a resolution.
As a councillor, we hope that you will also wish to avoid the cost to the council of a strike by traffic wardens, and the disruption to the public, and we would appreciate any efforts you can make to prevail on Mr Herbert to act in a more responsible way, and to engage with GMB to avoid the need for a strike.