A consultative ballot of UNISON members in Somerset’s Learning Disability Service has returned a 99% “reject” response to Discovery’s cuts.
Almost all Learning Disability staff are UNISON members and 70% participated in the vote.
Staff voted following Discovery’s decision to unilaterally end the consultation process without addressing their concerns. After Somerset County Council outsourced the Learning Disability Service in April, a majority of staff signed a collective grievance out of concern over the harm to the service.
The grievance called for the consultation pause until Discovery produced evidence that this level of cost cutting was required. UNISON also asked for detailed costings allowing the changes to be properly judged.
UNISON began the ballot when Discovery did not respond to the grievance and cut off the consultation without providing the detail asked for by staff.
The union will now demand Discovery re-opens its consultation with a full evidence base.
UNISON organiser in Somerset Tom Kennedy-Hughes said:
“At every turn Learning Disability Staff have stood up for their service, asking hard questions about Discovery’s neglect of a job they are proud to do. Now they are fed up with Discovery’s disrespect and have shown it with a 99% vote against their proposals.
“Staff know if these proposals proceed colleagues will continue to leave the service in droves. The support they can provide to customers will decline, as it has since the service was outsourced.
“If Discovery have a plan to improve, they have not shared it with us. We must protect this service, which is why UNISON refuses give Discovery the carte blanche they appear to be demanding.
“Even as the token consultation went on, the service was visibly declining, leading to a situation whereby Discovery could not help more service users because it was failing to run a safe operation. Staff expect better of their employer and it is time for Discovery bosses to come forward, admit they have got it wrong, and work with us to fix these problems.”
Staff working in the Learning Disability Service gave the following accounts:
- A day centre worker. “Many sessions are being cancelled and large groups of customers are being grouped together. Previously we provided a range of activities to reflect different needs, wants and requirements of the customer. Low staffing means we are now providing a reduced service and we still struggling to meet the need of the customer.
- Our customers are put first and we make sure they are safe and their needs are met with a smile on our faces. The reason given for this situation is the large amount of job vacancies. Discovery seems unable to fill positions with these worse terms and conditions and I’m not surprised! Just imagine what the situation will be like if this proposal goes ahead.
- An LD worker: My job is not just a job for me! It’s my life, at work and at home. I do it from all my heart, as I am a mother of a child with a disability. And I treat people support the same as I want my son to be treated. I am not committed 100%, I am committed 1000%
- UNISON has notified Discovery of the consultative ballot results but the employer has declined to acknowledge it
- Learning Disability Service UNISON stewards are available for interview on request
- A “consultative ballot” does not lead to formal industrial action, but rather is a ballot UNISON conducts to demonstrate depth of feeling in the hope the employer will negotiate.