Rotherham gravediggers put strike action on hold

WORKERS' VOICE: Unison branch secretary Ruth Askwith.WORKERS' VOICE: Unison branch secretary Ruth Askwith.
WORKERS' VOICE: Unison branch secretary Ruth Askwith.
PLANNED strike action by Rotherham’s gravediggers has been put on hold following a pay offer from their employers.

The workers involved in the dispute are mostly at or close to national minimum wage level and union Unison says they have lost out significantly on wages since being transferred out of direct council employment over a decade ago.

The staff called for a ten per cent increase and balloted to take strike action for up to nine days in September and October if a deal was not reached.

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Dan Wood, regional organiser at Unison, said: “The employer is starting to engage in talks over pay, but the current offer falls well below what workers are asking for.

“It would still see outsourced workers paid considerably less than their equivalents employed by the council, after a decade of lagging behind.

“Outsourced staff are being treated and paid as second class citizens. There’s no justification for Rotherham’s council services to be run as a two-tier workforce.”

RMBC contracts the cemetery grounds maintenance responsibilities to Dignity, which subcontracts the work to Glendale Managed Services.

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Unison says the staff are paid ten per cent less than they would be had the council kept the service in house.

RMBC is an accredited real living wage employer – but does not currently hold its contractors to the same standard.

Unison says the current offer would mean the majority of workers would see pay rise to the real living wage of £10.90, backdated to April 1.

The union has recommended that the offer be refused as it represents only a 4.6 per cent rise to most staff, and provides no details about overtime wages or weekend on-call pay rates.

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Rotherham branch secretary Ruth Askwith said: “Workers have a huge responsibility to make sure people’s loved ones are laid to rest in a dignified manner, in a well-maintained location.

“They deserve to be paid fairly, regardless of whether they’re employed directly by the council, or a contractor.

“The current pay offer falls well short of what workers asked for, and that’s why the recommendation is for it to be rejected.”

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