War of words between charity and union over contract change proposals

The union Unison says more than 300 staff face losing their jobs if they do not sign up to new contracts; the charity Aspire Living says most employees would receive pay rises

A war of words has broken out between a learning disability charity and a union over proposed changes to staff pay and conditions. 

The union Unison said more than 300 care staff at the charity Aspire Living were threatened with losing their jobs if they refused to sign up to “substantial changes to their contracts”, including cutting annual leave, sick pay and overtime. 

The charity said it was “surprised and rather saddened to hear the scare stories being made about our staff” and said the majority of employees would receive a pay rise of at least three per cent. 

Unison said the proposed changes would also allow the charity to lower pension provision in the future. 

An Aspire Living spokesperson said there was no proposal to reduce staff pensions. 

Ray Salmon, West Midlands regional organiser at Unison, said: “Staff have been left in no doubt they stand to lose their jobs if they don’t agree to these contract changes. 

“Aspire is simply bullying them into accepting cuts to annual leave, sick pay, and overtime.

“Any attempt to portray this as a benefit for staff is being highly selective with the facts. The charity should do the right thing and drop these proposals.”

An Aspire Living spokesperson said: “We are in a process of consultation with our workforce about a number of changes; absolutely no redundancies have been announced and nor will any be announced; nor is there any proposal to reduce staff pensions. 

“The consultation will actually provide staff with more career opportunities and we are creating 18 new roles in the new year. We need more staff, not fewer, to be able to provide our charitable services. 

“In fact, the majority of our staff will see their pay rise by at least three per cent, and this is likely to be backdated. This comes on top of a pay increase last April for the majority of our support workers.”

The spokesperson said the consultation had been extended into the new year to provide staff with more opportunity to discuss the proposals. 

“There will be some changes, of course, to terms and conditions, but this will enable us to make better use of our limited charitable resources across the whole workforce,” they added. 

“This is not, therefore, a 'gloom and doom' story. We are investing in our staff, providing pay increases and greater career opportunities for the majority during these very tough times.”

The charity, which had an income of £6.4m in the year to the end of March 2019, has 317 employees, according to the latest figures on the Charity Commission's online register. 

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