In August this year, strike action was avoided by refuse workers in Doncaster over pay discrepancy, but the Union said industrial action was still on the table if SUEZ decided to proceed with compulsory redundancies.
Following talks between Unite and SUEZ, with ACAS present, and a formal 90-day consultation with members of staff, SUEZ has this week agreed to suspend the possibility of making compulsory redundancies for a year – in the hope that the necessary reduction in staff numbers associated with its new contract with Doncaster Council can be achieved through voluntary means in the interim.
SUEZ has also offered an enhanced voluntary redundancy package to encourage volunteers to step forward from within the workforce, and help avoid the need for compulsory redundancies.
Nick Browning, SUEZ – “Having to make compulsory redundancies is not an outcome we want. As such, SUEZ has this week accepted the financial risk in guaranteeing to the workforce that we will not consider making any compulsory redundancies for a year from now…”
This agreement means that a possible ballot for strike action among the workforce, which was announced recently, will not take place, SUEZ says.
SUEZ recycling and recovery UK was awarded a contract to provide new recycling and refuse collection services to Doncaster Council in June 2017. The new service is due to be introduced in March 2018.
Prior to awarding the contract, Doncaster Council consulted to determine what residents wanted from their waste and recycling services. During this consultation, residents “overwhelmingly” favoured a new, simpler, system which involved substantial changes to the service, including a move to a mixed collection system for recyclable material, ending the process of sorting recycling at kerbside, SUEZ says.
Due to the proposed changes to the service, fewer staff will be required than the current individually-separated weekly recycling collection service requires. This led to the start of a formal consultation period with staff to determine how the practicalities of delivering the new contract could be balanced against the best interests of existing staff.
Nick Browning, general manager for municipal services at SUEZ recycling and recovery UK said: “As a responsible employer, reducing staffing levels is not something SUEZ takes lightly and we have sought to negotiate an outcome that meets the long-term needs of the contract, while importantly also protecting the best interests of our staff.
“Having to make compulsory redundancies is not an outcome we want. As such, SUEZ has this week accepted the financial risk in guaranteeing to the workforce that we will not consider making any compulsory redundancies for a year from now – well beyond the start of the new contract – which we hope will avoid the need altogether in the longer term. We have also offered an enhanced redundancy package to ensure those who may wish to volunteer for redundancy get a good deal.
“We will continue to work with Unite and our other stakeholders to ensure this process is managed in the best interests of all parties, and that we achieve the correct staffing levels to operate an effective new service, while also maintaining the integrity of the service we currently provide.”
Shane Sweeting, regional Unite officer, said: “It’s not only reassuring news for our members, who were under the threat of compulsory redundancy, but good news for the residents and the local economy.
“By way of meaningful consultation and negotiation, all parties have managed to secure the jobs of full time employees for a further period of twelve months.
“With the continued commitment and demonstration of goodwill, and support, from Doncaster Council we can endeavour to work towards no compulsory redundancies being required under the new contract.
“These have been difficult negotiations to progress to a satisfactory outcome for all parties. However I’m convinced that, through maintaining the spirit of cooperation, we can ensure the service provided to the residents of Doncaster remains of a high quality at a reasonable cost without the compromise of losing further quality jobs.”