This is a letter from Swindon UNISON branch Secretary Bob Cretchley
YOUR editorial comment (Sep 17) on the UNISON dispute with Swindon Council over the withdrawal of shift allowances suggests that the decision to strike is a knee jerk one.
Nothing is further from the truth.
The council announced its intention to withdraw unsocial hours allowances at the end of last year. Since then UNISON has tried to dissuade them from doing so. During this period we had three months of regular negotiations with the council on this but to no avail, as they refused to budge at all on the issue.
Since July, UNISON has been engaged in a formal ballot on industrial action; never a quick process under current legislation.
So in all, Swindon Council has had nine months to resolve this matter but refused to do so, other than on its own terms, i.e. staff lose the allowances.
The facts of the matter are quite simple. Staff in a range of services who are required to work unsocial hours were employed on the basis of receiving an enhancement. They have naturally calculated their household budgets to include this payment. Swindon Council has now withdrawn it. The loss of this, typically £300 per month, is causing major financial hardship. In the face of the council’s refusal to engage in genuine negotiations on the matter, UNISON members have had no option but to vote for industrial action, hardly a knee jerk reaction.
BOB CRETCHLEY UNISON Branch Secretary Civic Offices Euclid Street Swindon