Gravediggers in Rotherham to walk out for nine days

Unison branch secretary Ruth Askwith.Unison branch secretary Ruth Askwith.
Unison branch secretary Ruth Askwith.
GRAVEDIGGERS will strike for nine days after rejecting a pay offer “well below” the wage they would receive if they worked for the council.

Cemetery maintenance was outsourced as part of the 35-year contract RMBC signed with Dignity, which has sub-contracted the work to Glendale.

The gravediggers voted to strike but put the action on hold while a pay offer was being considered.

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But this has now been rejected - and the walkouts will begin with three consecutive days starting on Friday, October 20.

Unison regional organiser Dan Wood said: “Staff have made their feelings perfectly clear on the offer put forward by Glendale.

“Not a single person voted to accept the offer. This shows how strongly workers feel. They do a hugely important job, and deserve to be paid fairly.

“Staff don’t want to go on strike. It’s now up to Glendale to come up with an acceptable offer so the dispute can be resolved.”

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Unison believes the workers have lost out significantly financially since being transferred out of direct council employment over a decade ago.

The union says the wage offer put forward by Glendale would still mean a basic rate “well below” the amount paid to directly-employed council staff. It said the 59p an hour less added up to more than £1,100 a year.

The gravediggers’ request is for £11.10 an hour - 20p over the real living wage - backdated to April. They also want an increase in the weekend and bank holiday stand-by rate.

Unison Rotherham branch secretary Ruth Askwith said: “Workers have made it clear they won’t be treated less favourably than their council-employed counterparts.

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“Glendale staff do really important work, ensuring people’s loved ones are laid to rest in a dignified manner.

“They care deeply about the work they do. They just want to be paid fairly for it.”

At last week’s cabinet meeting, Rotherham Council leader Cllr Chris Read indicated that the authority would explore bringing the service back in house – but no provision for this was written into the lengthy Dignity deal.

Meanwhile, Dignity will still face the usual financial penalties for any failings during the days of strike action.

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