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Employee rights 'ripped up and thrown in bin', union claims
THE firm in charge of fixing potholes in Wiltshire has “ripped up employees’ rights and thrown them in the bin,” it is claimed.
Balfour Beatty Living Places won a £25m a year contract last June to maintain the county’s roads. It also looks after street cleaning and lighting and grass cutting.
They used to be represented by Unite, Unison and the GMB, who worked closely together. The unions say that in pre-contract talks they were assured that their collective bargaining rights would be recognised.
But now the firm has told them it will be negotiating with staff internally and does not recognise the agreement they had with the council.
Carole Vallelly, Unite’s organiser for Wiltshire, said: “This is absolutely appalling. I explicitly asked for the right to collective bargaining to continue, and was assured that it would.
“Now they’ve said they are going to have an employee forum instead, with no teeth to challenge anything, and no access to independent legal advice. We are not taking this lying down.”
A motion will be put to the GMB’s congress in June calling for a national campaign against the firm getting any future council contracts.
Ms Vallelly added: “I think Wiltshire Council has a moral responsibility in this.”
Liberal Democrats on the council are furious. Their leader, Cllr Jon Hubbard, said: “The Conservative administration’s policy of privatising council services has meant that the rights of council staff are being stripped away and it does not care.”
Balfour Beatty Living Places said its staff association and employee forums allow workers to have their views taken into account.
“We already work informally and closely with a number of unions in a number of our other contracts,” said a spokesman. “We are very happy to continue to do so in Wiltshire but we do not propose to enter into any formal recognition agreement.”
Wiltshire’s portfolio holder for the highways contract, Cllr Phillip Whitehead, said there was no requirement for the company to work with unions, adding: “Appropriate alternative staff consultation mechanisms are in place.”
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