Angry workers for new Norwich City Council company could strike

Norwich City Council's City Hall headquarters. Photo: Nick Butcher.

Union members have backed a ballot for strike action after a dispute over the switch of workers to a new company created by Norwich City Council. - Credit: EDP pics © 2007

Angry workers for a new company set up by Norwich City Council have backed plans to begin a ballot for industrial action - just days before the company is launched.

Some 400 workers, currently employed by Norfolk County Council-owned company Norse, are due to transfer to an arms-length company run by the city council, as City Hall takes services back in-house.

The first of the four contracts the city council is taking back, through the newly-formed Norwich City Services Ltd, is environmental services, which includes staff who maintain the city's parks and clean the streets.

That new service is due to begin on Thursday (April 1), but members of Unite and UNISON unions have voted to begin an industrial action ballot due to a dispute over pay and conditions.

The unions claim a commitment to set out a road map to bring the new service's workers' terms and conditions in line with directly employed council staff is not being followed.

They say the new company's offer on pay, sickness and holidays "falls well short".

Unite regional officer Adam Oakes said: “These men and women are the faces of Norwich City Council, but they have some of the worst terms of any council worker.

“Members of both Unite and Unison are overwhelmingly united in their support for an industrial action ballot.

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"We urge management to get around the negotiating table to agree a fair deal for the staff.”

UNISON Norfolk branch secretary Jonathan Dunning said: “Our members will be wearing the badge of Norwich City Council from April 1, but they will be paid as second class workers.

"These committed workers knew they would not get full equality from day one but they were led to believe that there would be real progress from the first year and a road map to deliver this equality over time."

Nobody from the city council was available to comment, but a spokesperson previously said they were "surprised with the unions' stance".

She said: “From the beginning of the negotiations, we have fully engaged and worked well with the unions.

"The pay offer for 2021-22 includes a pay increase, more generous sick pay, increased holiday entitlement, and more generous pension entitlements.

“We have made it clear to the trade unions that this agreement is a first step towards further improvements over time and that there is a commitment to working in partnership with them to achieve that."

She added that the financial situation for all councils was "perilous" and City Hall had to find an extra £7m of savings by the middle of this financial year due to coronavirus.