Council leader urges ‘fair deal’ for grave-diggers

COUNCIL leader Cllr Chris Read urged management to meet union reps to reach a “fair deal” for Rotherham’s striking grave-diggers.


A vote saw 82 per cent of the borough’s cemetery grounds maintenance staff in favour of industrial action.

Last week, trade union Unison announced that 24-hour action would be taken on up to nine days in September and October if a pay deal is not reached.

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The gravediggers want an increase of ten per cent, which Unison says would “barely” achieve parity compared with the rate they would have received had the council not outsourced the service.

There is also criticism that the authority does not require contractors to pay the Real Living Wage, despite becoming an accredited employer of that standard itself in 2021.

RMBC leader Cllr Read said: “The council’s contract with Dignity dates back to 2008 and far pre-dates the contractual requirements that we would build into how the council does business with its suppliers today.

“Dignity, in turn, subcontract this part of the service to Glendales.

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“Our expectation is that all our providers pay fair wages to their staff and I would urge Glendale’s management to get round the table with trade union representatives and agree a fair deal for their employees.”

Dignity’s long-term contract was signed in July 2008 but RMBC did not even request an annual report from the company until 2016.

In more recent years, the council has paid closer attention to the arrangements, which have led to fines of more than £390,000 for failing to meet contractual requirements.

Mark Williams, property and logistics director at Dignity, said: “The grave-digging service at cemeteries across Rotherham is provided by employees of Glendale Managed Services, on behalf of Dignity.

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“We would like to reassure grave owners and bereaved families that any industrial action will not impact on the services they receive.

“We require any contractor to have a contingency for this eventuality and as a nationwide company we can allocate our people and resources wherever they are most needed.”

Planned strike days are September 8, 9, 10, 16, 17, 23, 24 and 30, and October 1.

A Unison spokesperson said: “Our members obviously regret the disruption this action would cause to a crucial service, but the lack of engagement from the employer means they unfortunately have no other option.”