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Union accuses learning disability charity of 'bullying' over contract changes

11 Dec 2020 News

More than 300 frontline jobs are under threat at the charity Aspire Living, according to the union Unison.

The trade union has accused the charity of “bullying” staff, saying that employees have been threatened with the sack unless they accept changes to their contracts and pensions.

The charity, which supports people living with learning disabilities, acknowledged that some terms and conditions were changing for staff, but said that there was no proposal to reduce pensions or make any redundancies.

‘Outrageous’

Unison said in a statement that care staff working for the charity in the west Midlands had been told to agree to new contracts, which will reduce annual leave, sick pay and overtime, and could lead to lower pension provisions.

Ray Salmon, the West Midlands regional organiser for Unison, said: “There’s already a crisis in social care. Many services are struggling to deliver as they simply can’t recruit enough staff.  

“This is no way to treat care workers who have given their all during the pandemic.

"Cruel cuts such as these threatened by Aspire would be outrageous at any time. But to do so now after everything they have done is beyond breathtaking."

Clap for carers

Salmon continued: “Aspire seems to have forgotten that only a few months ago the entire country was applauding the efforts of all key workers. This is not the time to be treating dedicated care staff with such contempt.  

“If the bullying tactics at Aspire succeed, everyone will be expected to work longer for less. Long-serving care staff could see their retirement plans ruined. Many others may choose to leave for jobs elsewhere. 

“Staff are distraught at the impact the changes could have on the many vulnerable adults so reliant on the care provided. The charity must see sense and think again.” 

Charity: We are creating jobs, not cutting them

Aspire Living refuted the union’s claims, and said it is investing in their staff.

A spokesperson for the charity said: “We are surprised and rather saddened to hear the scare stories being made about our staff.

“We are in a consultation process 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 3% and this is likely to be backdated. This comes on top of a pay increase last April for the majority of our support workers.

“Our consultation has been extended in to the new year to provide staff with more opportunity to talk with us and we have been pleased and impressed to see the level of engagement from them and from their employee consultative council representatives.

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

“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.” 

Aspire Living delivered local authority contracts worth £5.2m in 2018-19, according to the latest filings with the Charity Commission. At the end of 2018-19, it employed 319 members of staff.

Editor's note: This story was updated to amend details in the charity's statement

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