Staff to be balloted in dispute over pay
STAFF working in former NHS care homes in North Staffordshire are to be balloted by their union as they fight plans to cut pay.
The nurses and other workers looking after people with learning disabilities will be balloted over what action they want to take over fears their pay will be cut by up to £400 a month.
The 200-plus former NHS staff in 10 group homes face being forced onto new downgraded contracts by the national charity which now employs them.
They had worked for NHS Combined Healthcare until Turning Point took over the service two years ago.
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The charity is reviewing its pay and conditions to protect jobs following cuts in local authority and health budgets.
But union leaders are to hold a consultation ballot this month to gather workers' views on possible industrial action.
Although the results are not legally-binding it is expected to pave the way for a formal poll on industrial action. Around 2,600 Turning Point staff are affected across the country.
Union leader Jenny Harvey, North Staffordshire community health branch secretary for Unison, said: "The changes particularly affect payments for working nights and weekends.
"And as this area's homes provide 24-hour care, members locally will be hit far harder than others in the country.
"Despite this, Turning Point is steadfastly refusing to talk to us.
"So our members have been left with no choice but to hold some form of consultative ballot to allow us to gauge workers' opinion before deciding how to proceed.
"The charity wants to sack its staff and re-employ them on new terms and conditions, which would lose them up to £400 a month."
Unison national officer for charities Simon Watson has written to Turning Point chief executive Lord Adebowale warning that industrial action is possible.
His letter says: "It is a disgrace that a charity like Turning Point – set up to care for people in need – should treat its own staff so badly.
"A race to the bottom is not the way to attract and retain decent staff and that means the charity's clients will suffer."
A Turning Point spokesman said: "We must constantly review our costs and try to work out how we can make the efficiencies that will help protect jobs and services for the vulnerable people we support. These proposals were not made lightly but are forced out of economic necessity.
"We want to protect as many jobs as possible by reviewing changes to terms and conditions of employment."