Community care workers in the west of Scotland are being balloted on industrial action following plans to downgrade 155 support worker posts.
The ballot affects Unison members employed by the charity Cornerstone in the West of Scotland, which provides community care services to vulnerable adults.
Cornerstone has said it cannot sustain the current levels of support workers it employs. As a result, it plans to downgrade some posts to a support assistant role.
Unison has claimed that the salaries of those who are downgraded slashed by £2,000-£3,000, and that posts could also be cut.
Regional organiser Mark Clifford described the proposals as “draconian and unnecessary” and said he believed other options were available, which would see current staffing levels maintained.
He said: “Our members, many of whom have given years of loyal and dedicated service, are outraged at the proposed job losses and a whopping £2,000-£3,000 slashing of salaries for those who are demoted.”
However, a Cornerstone spokeswoman insisted there will be no job losses as a result of the re-grading process, and said those who are affected would have their salaries protected until after Christmas.
She added that Cornerstone was one of a minority of social care organisations in Scotland that honours the Scottish Living Wage, which is currently £7.45 an hour.
But Mr Clifford said the union had been “left with no alternative” but to ballot for industrial action.
“We have during our negotiations consistently requested that Cornerstone halt the changes and return to the negotiating table and embark on a more meaningful and constructive dialogue.
“We would urge the Cornerstone Community Care board and the chief executive to halt the process and explore with UNISON a resolution to this dispute.”
In response, Cornerstone chief executive Edel Harris said he was “disappointed” by Unison’s decision to ballot.
“We have concluded a period of consultation with our staff and Unison regarding the need to address the number of support worker posts across our West of Scotland services,” he said.
“A number of years ago, Cornerstone introduced support assistant posts across the organisation, reflecting the changing needs of our charity and the people we support.
“It was anticipated that these would, in time, replace a number of support worker posts through natural turnover. While this was successful in other regions, the West of Scotland has seen a relatively low staff turnover.
He added: “This process has not been undertaken lightly, but is essential to ensure Cornerstone has a suitably qualified workforce carrying out duties relevant to their post, as well as ensuring continuity of care for the people we support.
“Voluntary redundancy was also offered, and a number of individuals have taken up this option. There will be no job losses as a result of this process,” Mr Harris said.
“We understand this is a difficult and worrying time for our staff and we have agreed to protect any reduction in salary until the end of this year.”
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