Car allowance cut strike threat

STRIKE action by North Somerset Council employees is now a real possibility after councillors voted to abolish car allowances for hundreds of its staff

STRIKE action by North Somerset Council employees is now a real possibility after councillors voted to abolish car allowances for hundreds of its staff. At a full council meeting last week, councillors voted in favour of sacking employees who fail to agree to the new plans, which will begin in September.Crowds of public sector staff gathered outside the town hall where the meeting was held to protest against the plans.Previously employees such as carers and social workers whose jobs rely on having a vehicle were paid an allowance to use their own cars. This allowance is written in to their contracts and for several years councillors have been negotiating with trade unions about alternatives and ways of getting the allowance reduced or removed.The new executive member for finance, Tony Lake, unveiled plans to force employees to accept a one-off payment of £1,500 to remove the clause or have their contracts terminated and be reinstated with a new one minus the allowance.Under the new plans the 600 car-using employees would get a flat rate of 40p per mile for the first 10,000 miles and 25p per mile after that. Speaking before the meeting, North Somerset UNISON chairman, Pat Barrett, said: "If the council decides to unilaterally break contracts of employment with hundreds of its staff and reduce pay, it will have broken the fundamental element of trust between employer and employee."Staff will be angry and many will want to retaliate. That is what people do when they feel they are being treated unfairly. There will always be the possibility of industrial action and if not then individual action. The council will have broken its word to many staff and that is not how a public authority which upholds standards of good practice and enforces the law should behave. It does not set a good example."At the meeting Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors called for the plans to be reconsidered and mediators to be used. But Tory councillors rejected the calls saying it will remove an 'inequitable system' and replace it with one that is 'fair'.


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