Workers at drugs charity Lifeline set to strike over restructure

Jamie Major, a Unite regional officer, says staff do not feel they have been meaningfully consulted

Jamie Major
Jamie Major

Workers at a drugs charity in east London are to go on strike later this month over changes to the service.

Members of the trade union Unite plan to walk out on 23 and 29 February over the restructure at Lifeline’s drug treatment centre in Tudor Grove, Hackney.

Twenty-six of 27 union members balloted voted in favour of industrial action earlier this month. The centre employs about 37 people.

Under the changes, staff were told most existing jobs were at risk of redundancy and there would be a roughly equal number of new jobs created under the restructure.

Unite accused Lifeline of closing the women’s and families’ services. It said some staff would earn about £4,000 less in the new jobs.

Unite regional officer Jamie Major said staff did not feel they had been meaningfully consulted. "The management are saying any front-line drug and alcohol practitioner can do first-line counselling," he said.

But Ian Wardle, chief executive of Lifeline, said the women’s and families’ services would become part of the main service. "However you construe this, in no way could you call this a cut in services," he said.

The new service will have about the same number of jobs as the old one, the charity said. Fewer of the staff will be counsellors and instead more staff will be trained in talking therapies in order to meet demand, said Wardle.

He said about 10 staff were likely to leave either through voluntary redundancy or by choice. He said it was too early to say whether there would be compulsory redundancies in that number because some staff might take jobs elsewhere in Lifeline.

Wardle said that about 19 people of the 25 offered jobs so far would earn more under the restructure. "We do acknowledge that six people have lost money and we regret it when any worker loses money," he said. "But our pay scales were not very sensible and some people got paid far more than others for no clear reason. We have to bring coherence to it."

He said that Lifeline had made compromises and increased its offer to staff several times.

The service had been redesigned to focus on recovery in line with the government’s strategy on drug treatment, said Wardle.

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