SUEZ and Unite agree to suspend compulsory redundancies in Doncaster
SUEZ has agreed to suspend the possibility of making compulsory redundancies associated with changes to its contract with Doncaster Council for at least a year following negotiations with the trade union Unite, in the presence of the conciliation service ACAS, and a 90-day consultation with members of staff.
After making the announcement yesterday (11 October), SUEZ now hopes that it can achieve what it perceives to be a necessary reduction in staff numbers associated with its new contract with Doncaster Council through voluntary means, offering refuse workers an enhanced voluntary redundancy package in the hope some will step forward of their own accord, avoiding the need to make compulsory redundancies in the interim, and hopefully avoiding proposed strike action by the affected refuse workers over the Christmas period.
Following a competitive tender process, SUEZ was awarded a contract in June to deliver new recycling and refuse collection services to Doncaster Council, with the new services to be introduced from March 2018.
Prior to awarding the contract, Doncaster Council consulted residents on what they would want to see from a new waste and recycling service, with residents overwhelmingly favouring a new, simpler system, which entailed significant changes to the existing service and a move to a mixed collection system for recycling to replace the existing kerbside sort system.
Due to these proposed changes, SUEZ concluded that fewer staff would be required to deliver the service, and a formal consultation period was launched to determine how the practicalities of delivering the new service could be balanced against the best interests of existing staff.
Staff belonging to Unite had planned on going on strike in August over a two per cent pay offer with the condition that guaranteed overtime was ended, in addition to fears over job losses, although this was called off following successful pay negotiations.
‘A satisfactory outcome for all parties’
Commenting on the agreement, 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, added: “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.”