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Hertfordshire abandons union talks

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County council managers have abandoned talks with unions and are set to consult staff members individually, it has been announced.

Hertfordshire CC has told employees that it can no longer afford to wait for agreement with the unions over changes to sick pay and fringe allowances.

The union has warned that the council is risking strike action by abandoning collective bargaining.

Talks have been ongoing since the summer over changes but the local branch has insisted that it cannot negotiate over changes to sick pay and some allowances because those are covered by the national agreement on local government pay.

In a letter to staff the council said: “Meetings have taken place with UNISON to try and resolve our differences and reach an agreement that is acceptable to all sides, but this has not been possible.” It added: “With the need to identify savings becoming more pressing, we simply cannot wait any longer.”

The council, which has told staff that the 4% saving on pay costs is equivalent to £7m a year or 400 redundancies, is to present a final proposal for consultation with employees next month ahead of implementation in April 2012.

David Lloyd (Con), executive member for resources, said: “Changes to our employment package, including the way we pay staff for sick leave, have the potential to generate substantial savings for the county. Nothing has been decided and we want to take into account the views of our staff before making any decisions.”

In a statement, Unison’s Hertfordshire Country branch said the council was fully aware that the branch had no authority to negotiate on nationally agreed terms such as sick pay and fringe allowances.

“UNISON is opposed to the proposals of the council to move away from collective bargaining, moving towards individual consultation with employees,” it continued. “If the council continues with these proposals we will be consulting our members about taking direct action to stop this attack on our terms and conditions.”

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