12 October 2017 by Elizabeth Slow

Suez agrees to suspend Doncaster job cuts

Suez and members of Unite the union in Doncaster have come to an agreement this week over compulsory redundancies associated with changes to Suez’s contract with Doncaster council.

Following talks between Unite and Suez, with conciliation service Acas present, and a formal 90-day consultation with members of staff, Suez has this week agreed to suspend the possibility of making compulsory redundancies for a year.

Suez has agreed to suspend compulsory redundancies for a year. (Picture: Shaun Flannery)

The agreement was made in the hope that the necessary job cuts associated with Suez’s new contract with Doncaster council can be achieved through voluntary means in the meantime.

Suez has also offered an enhanced voluntary redundancy package to encourage volunteers to step forward from within the workforce, and help avoid the need for compulsory redundancies.

This agreement means that a possible ballot for strike action among the workforce, which was announced recently, will not take place.

Consultation

Suez recycling and recovery UK was awarded a contract to provide new recycling and refuse collection services to Doncaster council in June 2017, following a formal competitive tender process. The new service is due to be introduced in March 2018.

Prior to awarding the contract, Doncaster council consulted widely to determine what residents wanted from their waste and recycling services.

Suez said during this consultation, residents ‘overwhelmingly’ favoured a new, simpler, system which involved substantial changes to the service, including a move to a mixed collection system for recyclable material, ending the process of sorting recycling at kerbside.

The company added due to the proposed changes to the service, fewer staff will be required than the current individually-separated weekly recycling collection service requires.

Unite had claimed that Suez was set to make 106 redundancies out of a total workforce of 258 workers (see letsrecycle.com story).

This led to the start of a formal consultation period with staff to determine how the practicalities of delivering the new contract could be balanced against the best interests of existing staff.

Strikes on the refuse contract were called off in August after a long-term pay deal was reached, and both parties agreed to talks at the conciliation service Acas, over the proposed redundancies.

Negotiation

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.”

Good news

Shane Sweeting, regional Unite officer, said: “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.”


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