Lifeline drug treatment centre to ballot over strike action

Unite regional officer Jamie Major says there is likely to be a mass walkout

Jamie Major
Jamie Major

Almost all staff at the Tudor Grove centre, a drug treatment centre run by the charity Lifeline, are being balloted over strike action.

Thirty-six staff at the centre in Hackney, east London, are members of the union Unite and will be asked to vote in the ballot this month. The charity says there are 39 staff in total, but the union says there are 37.

Jamie Major, a regional officer at the union, said all staff at the centre had been issued with redundancy notices and were being asked to re-apply for new posts, some of which were lower paid than their previous jobs.

He said the changes were being made by the charity’s head office, which planned to close the centre’s support service for the children of drug and alcohol-using parents and its specialist women’s service.

Ian Wardle, chief executive of Lifeline, said the needs of all service users and new ones would be met under the new system, and that some of the new posts would be better paid than the ones they replaced.

"The brutal truth is that the women’s service wasn’t very well used and we have changed the service because we want to help more women," he said. He confirmed that all staff at the centre had been told their posts were at risk and invited to apply for new roles, and said there might be compulsory redundancies but the number would be small.

Wardle also said the charity’s funding had remained consistent this year and the changes were not motivated by a need to save money.

"As you would expect, I very much hope that there will not be industrial action," he said.

According to Unite, the 36 staff joined the union because of the dispute over the proposed changes, and none had previously been members. Major said that in a consultative ballot last month 94 per cent had voted and all had voted in favour of industrial action.

He said the strike ballot would close by the end of the month and was likely to result in a vote in favour of industrial action. "Based on the attitudes of staff and the result of the consultative ballot, I heavily predict there will be a mass walkout," he said.

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