HOPES are rising that strike action can be avoided among workers who look after some of the most vulnerable people in South Tyneside.
Unison, the public sector trade union, announced it was to ballot members over possible industrial action in response to being de-recognised by Manchester-based Creative Support Ltd at the Woodside Close Learning Disabilities Service in Jarrow.
It came after the not-for-profit healthcare company was brought in to take over the running the service and the firm did not wish to recognise the union.
The switch – from previous provider South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust – came into force at the start of this month.
The service comprises six bungalows, where residents with complex needs are assisted to live with the support of 30 full and part-time staff.
After taking over the contract, workers were transferred from the health trust to Creative Support, which then announced it would not recognise the trade union.
But relations between the company and the union have started to thaw over the last two weeks – with hopes now rising of a resolution to the dispute without the need of industrial action.
Now it is hoped that industrial dispute mediator ACAS will become involved in forging a solution. John McDade, Unison regional organiser, said it remained “inevitable” that redundancies would be necessary, but he hopes that job losses would be kept “to a minimum”.
He said: “We have been in considerable discussions with Creative Support Limited and it is hoped they will respond to ACAS being involved.
“It seems inevitable that there will be redundancies, but we are pushing for the fairest selection procedure and for the smallest number of redundancies possible.”
Mr McDade said there is currently no timescale over when the redundancies will come into effect.
He added: “We are still not officially recognised by the company, but we are pressing them on that.
“What I can say is that we have been having meaningful discussions, and things are, in general terms, looking much more positive.”
A spokeswoman for Creative Support Ltd, which has charitable status, said the company was not aware of ACAS’s possible intervention.
She said: “We are making a small reduction to the workforce to bring our staff resources in line with commissioned service levels, and we are currently in open and positive discussion with staff and Unison as to how best to achieve this.
“We have always strived to work positively with all unions and our employees.”