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Lincolnshire staff to work to rule

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Unison warns of further unrest as members support work-to-rule but vote against a full strike.

More than two-thirds of Unison members at Lincolnshire CC have backed industrial action short of a strike over job cuts and changes to terms and conditions.

While only slightly more than a third - 35.3% - voted for strike action, 68.5% supported a work-to-rule action to match industrial action already in place in the council’s adult social care department.

Turnout for the ballot was 31.3%.

Branch secretary John Sharman said the result came as no surprise because members had made it clear “they will not take the cuts lying down”.

“The fact that over a third of voters do want to strike sends out a clear message for the future,” he added. “Lincolnshire simply does not have a history of local strikes, so although we haven’t got a majority this time, a marker has been set down. Not only does the county council face industrial action now, it has to expect an escalation in times to come.”

The work to rule amongst adult social care staff was having “a major impact” and the extension of industrial action across the authority “will be a massive managerial headache for the county council”, Mr Sharman said.

“The council relies on the goodwill of its staff - this vote says that goodwill has been lost,” he said.

Unison, along with Unite and GMB who are carrying out their own ballots, argue that the council, which wants to cut staffing costs by 25%, should phase in job cuts and take advantage of natural wastage rather than frontload them.

The three unions have also complained of a lack of information about how service areas will be affected by the job losses and are objecting to proposed changes to travel allowances and the removal of weekend working enhancements.

However, the council dismissed claims that the adult social care work to rule had had an impact and said natural wastage would not deliver the savings needed.

David O’Connor, executive director for performance and governance, said the council had already amended its initial proposals following consultation with staff and he described the ballots as “premature” because final proposals were not set to be published until later this month. Support for the work to rule only amounted to 10% of council employees, he said.

“Despite the council engaging with the trade unions throughout our restructure process, they have put no viable alternative proposals forward on how the council’s much reduced budget should be allocated,” he added.

“The trade unions feel that job losses should only occur through natural wastage and voluntary means, and the council has already managed vacancies over the past few years.

“Not filling posts has saved the authority around £6m, however, we are currently in a situation where, because of front-loading of grant reductions, we need to save £57m this year alone.”

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