Union urges council to halt redundancies during outbreak

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Hampshire County Council
Hampshire County Council’s HQ in Winchester

A UNION is calling on Hampshire County Council bosses to halt redundancies and disciplinary action against employees calling in sick.

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The authority recently approved plans to save £80m by 2021 in a move that put more than 220 jobs at risk.

Now Unison, which represents council employees, is urging HCC to make a U-turn amid claims it intends to continue with planned redundancies despite the coronavirus outbreak, writes Maria Zaccaro of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Hampshire Unison branch secretary Callum Williamson said: “The council wants to continue with ‘business as usual’ but these are anything but usual times.

“Staff may quickly lose confidence in the council unless they do the right thing and put an immediate end to all non-urgent council and school processes.”

He added: “The council cannot meaningfully consult staff and service users, over changes which could see people lose their jobs, at a time when people are unable to meet in person.

“This is not what social responsibility in a time of national crisis looks like, and is the last thing staff need at a time when everyone is trying to protect and hold communities together.

“Local government workers are at the front line of the response to Covid-19, and they should be treated accordingly.”

He is also urging HCC to halt sickness-related sanctions as he believes employees feeling unwell for reasons not related to Covid-19 could continue to go to work as they fear there could be repercussions in the future due to the impact the pandemic  could have on employers.

He said: “No-one should get sanctioned from their employer for being ill at a time when there’s a public health emergency.

“We don’t know what situation we are going to be in. We think it is inappropriate that people have to try to protect their jobs at a time like this.”

A spokesperson for Hampshire County Council said: “The wellbeing of our workforce and the wider community that we serve is core to our decision-making during this exceptional period of time.

“All of our employees have been kept updated with the actions they need to take should they become sick with the virus or have to self-isolate. We take all decisions relating to our staff seriously and in line within clearly defined processes.

“We will continue to review future decisions in relation to all HCC business in light of the current situation and will engage with our staff and our trade unions as appropriate and necessary.”

This story was updated on 25th March 2020 with HCC’s response.

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