Cleaners who feared their pay and pensions would be reduced by being transferred to private firm are celebrating after Middlesbrough Council dropped the plan, says UNISON.
The 140 workers – who are among the lowest paid staff at the local authority – were told their jobs were to be outsourced to a number of contractors.
UNISON’s Middlesbrough local government branch campaigned against the transfer with strong support from the Labour group of councillors. Their opposition culminated in a mass demonstration outside a full council meeting on 23 December.
The independent mayor and his cabinet have now been forced to reconsider and withdraw the proposal to outsource the cleaners.
Instead of being transferred to private companies, the cleaners will continue working for Middlesbrough Council and will see their hard-earned wages and pensions protected as will now they remain part of the council’s workforce, says UNISON.
UNISON Northern regional secretary Clare Williams said: “These outsourcing plans were morally indefensible and little more than a legal way to cut the wages of the council’s lowest-paid employees in future.
“Privatising contracts in this way is a simply a false economy. The Council already has a track record of privatising contracts and then being forced in the past to bring them back in-house when things don’t work out.
“UNISON will now work with councillors to find a way of delivering a modern cleaning service with new ways of working that avoid outsourcing these roles unnecessarily.”
UNISON branch secretary Paul Thompson said: “The council has been persuaded by the moral pressure applied by UNISON and the Labour group of councillors. These low paid, predominantly female workers will now continue to be protected by nationally negotiated wages, and fair terms and conditions. They will also remain in the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS), ensuring they can afford to retire when the time is right for them.
“All along, UNISON has been asking the independent-led council to consider keeping these cleaners in house using new ways of working and more efficient equipment to deliver savings.
“The cleaning staff should always remain part of the council – not sold off to profiteering private companies.”
Councillor Matt Storey Leader of Middlesbrough Labour Group said: “We have been working and campaigning with our Trade Union colleagues to secure the rights and working conditions of our cleaners and this is a big victory for our approach. Labour Councillors have made it clear from the start that in our budget negotiations workers’ pay, pensions and conditions were one of our top priorities and with the Mayor accepting our demands over no move to fortnightly bin collection, no removal of school crossing patrols and no reduction in street sweeping and grass cutting services we have managed to deliver a budget that protects local workers and key local services.”