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IMPORTANT EXPENSES ADVICE FOLLOWING REMOVAL OF ECU ALLOWANCE

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Dear Member

Please see the model letter for individual UNISON members to use when dealing with managers in relation to the withdrawal of personal vehicles for Council business.  This can be downloaded as Model ECU word document here, or in Model ECU letter pdf format here.

This follows information which has been brought to UNISON's attention this morning. An email from HR has been forwarded to managers who have then cascaded it to staff and is in relation to the Council's Expenses Policy.

It states that, in accordance with the Expenses Policy, staff should not be reimbursed from petty cash. This is a red herring. This only applies to expenses which have already been incurred.

The Council is putting pressure on UNISON members to provide their own money - in effect, their own petty cash - to pay for transport. We strongly urge people to be resolute and refuse to do this.

We are urging you NOT to use your own money to pay for alternative transport. You are under no contractual obligation to do so. If Council departments have not made arrangements for how they will deal with the refusal of staff to use their vehicles, then that is their responsibility.

They have had a significant period to prepare for this, so we ask people not to make the situation easier for the Council.

This action will only work if members refuse to use their cars en masse and also refuse to use their own money to pay for transport. It is the only way the Council will be forced to see that their policy to take approximately £1,000 off you per year is a mistake.

If staff use their car for Council business or pay up front for travel expenses, it will undermine our effectiveness.

We must remain united!

Regards

 

Dave Dickinson

BRANCH SECRETARY

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Essential Car User (ECU) - Call for Action

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UNISON URGES MEMBERS NOT TO USE THEIR VEHICLES ON COUNCIL BUSINESS FROM NOVEMBER 1ST

UNISON is calling on all members who formerly received Essential Car User (ECU) allowance to stop using their car for Council business from the 1st of November.

This follows Blackpool Council deciding to terminate all Essential Car User (ECU) payments from that date when everyone will then be classed as ‘casual’ car users. The information seems to have been sent to those who have signed up to the buy-out. (NB: The Council has informed UNISON that the buy-out will be extended to all staff who lost their entitlement to ECU following the compliance review in 2017.)

UNISON has consistently stated that the Council’s decision to withdraw the allowance is a huge mistake. Not only is it unfair in expecting staff to continue to use their car without being paid an allowance for wear and tear, damage etc, but it would also be more costly to pay staff to use alternative modes of transport.

In meeting after meeting with the Council, we have repeatedly argued that the withdrawal of ECU is a false economy. The only way of demonstrating this now is for staff to exercise their contractual right to not use their vehicles for work business.

The responsibility for this state of affairs lies squarely with the Council. The onus, therefore, is on the Council to continue to provide services to the public at the same level of efficiency as when staff were paid the ECU allowance. Members, in exercising their right to not use their own car, should simply state to their manager that they will not be using their car for work business. We will not tolerate any attempts by managers to encourage, cajole or threaten staff into using their vehicles for work if they have clearly stated that they will not use it.

UNISON must stress that voluntarily withdrawing the use of your own car is not industrial action as staff are no longer contractually obliged to provide or use their car for work. You will not be refusing to travel or carry out your duties but the Council will have to put an alternative in place to facilitate any travel that you have to undertake.

While we acknowledge that there will be occasions when members will find it difficult to not use their car, the only way we can have a significant impact is to consistently refuse to use it. 

We have complied a document, "Information For UNISON Members Who Are Casual Car Users", which addresses the issues you may experience in refusing to use your car..  This can be downloaded here.

The strength of a union is its members willingness to fight back against unfair working practices. We urge you to stop using your car for FREE and to encourage staff who aren’t UNISON members to join and to take part.

If you have any questions, please contact the branch on 01253 478492 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

A .pdf copy of this notice can be downloaded here.

 

Dave Dickinson

BRANCH SECRETARY

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Essential Car User (ECU) Update - Council's latest ECU buy-out letter

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Dear Members

In the next few days, you may receive a letter from the Council. It is being sent only to those who refused to sign up to the Essential Car User (ECU) buy-out. The letter in simple terms is just another request for you to voluntarily sign up to the buy-out with the threat, as before, that if you do not sign up voluntarily then the Council will dismiss and re-engage you anyway to force the removal of ECU. UNISON produced this advice sheet from the last voluntary buy-out offer which is still applicable in general terms (you can also downlaod the .pdf version here).

UNISON must tell you, however, that the Council’s letter contains a disgraceful deceit. Specifically, it states:

"We are aware that you did not sign by the original buy-out deadline and one of the reasons for this may have been as a result of UNISON advising that a dispute had been lodged. Now that the dispute process has concluded we would like to offer you the opportunity to accept the Council's buyout of £625 gross (circa £500 net) by signing and returning the attached slip by Friday August the 10th 2018."

The dispute has NOT concluded. Far from it; UNISON has notified the Council that a Trade Dispute exists and this has not been withdrawn by UNISON. The Trade Dispute still exists and it is in furtherance of that Trade Dispute that UNISON can ballot for formal industrial action. There can be no reason why the Council would come to the conclusion that the dispute has concluded. UNISON therefore believe that this is a lie.

The intention of the Council is clear. It seeks to persuade those, who have courageously refused to be bought off by the Council's paltry offer, and convince them that UNISON has given up and called off the dispute.

UNISON believe that this is the latest in a series of acts of bad faith by the Council. Last year, while UNISON sought to discuss new criteria for ECU, the Council was already drawing up its 2018/19 budget to make a £265k saving from ceasing the allowance.

We are again asking members to NOT sign up to the buy-out. If the Council moves to 'dismiss and re-engage' those who refuse to sign, all terms and conditions will remain the same. The only difference will be that they are then casual car users with no obligation to use their car for work purposes.

UNISON believe that the cheapest and most efficient way to provide Council services is to pay the current allowance to those staff who need a car for their job. The only way to show the Council that this is the case is to cease using your own car for work. If any action is implemented it must be widely supported and will mean escalating costs for the Council.

Going forward, UNISON held a members' meeting on Thursday at which we agreed to suggest to those who have had their ECU allowance removed already if they want to exercise their contractual right to not use their own car for work. This would be in anticipation of the outcome of any industrial action ballot for those currently in receipt of ECU. (To be clear, any casual car user can withhold the use of their car for work purposes immediately as you are not under a contractual obligation to use your own car for work. Those who are still in receipt of ECU have to be covered by a lawful industrial action ballot before they can withhold the use of their car as they are contractually bound to use their car.)

We would like to ask members who are casual car users whether they would prefer to act now in withdrawing the use of their car or if they would prefer to wait until the outcome of an industrial action ballot is known.  Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to let us know your preference 

For any action - whether that is by casuals or those still in receipt of ECU - UNISON will give comprehensive advice on what to do. We will also support you 100% with any issues related to implementing a 'work to rule' or industrial action.

We will provide further updates in the next days and please contact us if you have any other queries.

Regards

Dave Dickinson

Branch Secretary

UNISON Blackpool Local Government Branch  

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Vote on Council's Essential Car User (ECU) Offer

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Dear member

To update you on the result of the ballot, the votes were as follows:

Reject: 147
Accept: 15

This is obviously an unambiguous rejection of the offer.

It was made clear in the email accompanying the ballot that a rejection would mean that UNISON would swiftly move to carry out a legal ballot on industrial action. (We held an indicative ballot which voted 92% in favour of industrial action but will now have to carry out the formal ballot.)

We will now move to:

  • ballot all staff currently in receipt of ECU
  • organise staff who were formerly receiving ECU to withdraw the use of their vehicles for work duties

To clarify, we cannot advise members who are in receipt of ECU to not use their vehicle until they are covered by a ‘YES’ vote in a formal industrial action ballot. Otherwise, they would be in breach of contract.

For everyone else - those formerly receiving ECU – they are casual car users and are, therefore, under no contractual obligation to use their car. We now want to organise these former ECU recipients into an organised and systematic campaign to cease using their cars on Council business.

We have chosen this course of action so that there is no unnecessary delay while waiting for an industrial action ballot to be organised.
However, before implementing it, UNISON wants to discuss how we will organise the next steps and how it can be carried out with all those affected by the ECU issue.

We have organised an urgent meeting which will take place at:

5.15pm,  Thursday, 26th of July, Upstairs Function Room, Blackpool Cricket Club, West Park Drive

 

Thanks

Dave Dickinson

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Essential Car User Allowance Dispute Meetings

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For a further update on the Essential Car User Allowance Dispute, please attend one of the following meetings:

Date

Time

Venue

Wednesday 27th June

1.00pm-1.30pm

UNISON Branch Office,

Coastal House

17-19 Abingdon Street

(access via glass door on Birley Street, directly opposite TSB – press silver buzzer)

Thursday 28th June

12.15pm-12.45pm &

12.45pm-1.15pm

Conference Room 3A

Bickerstaffe House

Thursday 28th June

3.30pm-4.00pm &

4.00pm-4.30pm

Yellow Room

Talbot and Brunswick Childrens Centre

Gorton Street

Blackpool

Friday 29th June

12.30pm-1.00pm

Conference Room1

South King Street/Albert Road

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Further Advice to UNISON members on Essential Car User (ECU) - In more detail

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We have reached a critical time in the ongoing dispute between UNISON and Blackpool Council in relation to the proposed removal of Essential Car User allowance. The Council has declared that consultation has been exhausted and has issued letters seeking to encourage staff to vary terms and conditions of employment by means of a buy-out. Compared to the allowance paid each year, the offer is paltry - a one-off payment of £625 (£500 net).

Background

On 14 May 2018 the Chief Executive, Neil Jack, wrote to UNISON to confirm that the proposals to remove Essential Car User Allowance would be progressed on the basis they can’t save £265k any other way. UNISON is clear that this is a con and a disgraceful attack on staff’s terms and conditions of employment.

Voluntary Agreement?

Staff currently in receipt of ECU will have now received a letter asking them in simple terms to become casual car users. Staff are being asked to voluntarily agree to give up their ECU allowance forever in exchange for a payment of £625 (gross). For most people this will be around £500 after tax dependant on what rate of income tax you pay. This is around half a year’s ECU allowance in exchange for losing ECU forever and UNISON believe that this is not a good deal for staff. UNISON’s clear policy position is that this is a derisory offer.

Staff are being asked as individuals whether they are willing to agree to this offer or not and it is for an individual to make that decision. However UNISON are clear that the best way to resist the attack on terms and conditions is to stick together and every voluntary agreement does undermine that position. To be clear you do not have to voluntarily agree to these changes.

The reason the employer initially seeks voluntary agreement is that the more people who voluntarily agree to the change, the more reasonable it is to dismiss and re-engage those who do not voluntarily agree. It is UNISON’s view that the employer has no real desire to offer a buyout rather they are seeking to minimise their risk of being exposed to claims for unfair dismissal by offering such a buyout and trying to split the workforce.

Dismissal and Re-engagement

If you do not sign up voluntarily the Council will dismiss and re-engage you to remove the ECU allowance and in simple terms turn you into a casual car user. Volunteer or the Council attack you anyway. This dismissal does not affect your continuous service although it is a dismissal in law and potentially there can be claims for unfair dismissal. It is not possible to say at this stage that a claim for unfair dismissal would have prospects of success and UNISON could only assess that once a dismissal has happened.

However dismissal and re-engagement can be a legally reasonable way to make changes to contracts of employment. As above the more staff who voluntarily agree to the change the more reasonable it is for the employer to dismiss the rest and that is why the buyout is offered.

What happens next?

UNISON’s position is that all members and staff should stick together on this and that the buyout is a very poor deal, but it is up to individual staff to make their decision.

The Council have given a deadline of 8 June 2018 for voluntary acceptance and you do not have to agree to the changes. If you do agree and volunteer then your ECU will cease in July 2018 and you will receive the buyout payment in July’s wages. You will then be a casual car user with no obligation to use your own car for work.

If you reject the buyout then the Council will likely move to dismiss and re-engage you. The earliest they could issue a dismissal and re-engagement notice is around the 28 June 2018. This is because they legally have to consult for 45 days prior to making any dismissals. They then have to issue you with your contractual notice which for many staff will be 12 weeks notice. Assuming you are entitled to 12 weeks notice the earliest any changes would take effect would be the very end of September or beginning of October 2018 meaning you would receive another 3 months worth of ECU allowance anyway. The buyout therefore is only really worth around half its face value. Another reason why it is a disgraceful offer.

Ultimately you would have to sign up to the new terms and conditions at the end of your notice period to remain employed by the Council and you would then be a casual car user.

Industrial Action

Given the employer’s approach to this and the constant bad faith shown by them throughout there is only one option left for members to take if they wish to oppose these attacks on terms and conditions of employment and that is to take some form of industrial action. The consultative ballot shows that members favour industrial action on the matter of ECU and therefore UNISON will progress a formal industrial action ballot.

Industrial action is a regrettable last resort however terms and conditions should never be surrendered. Terms and conditions should be made better and not worse.

UNISON are also due to meet with a special Committee of Councillors to discuss the matter however we do not have any great expectations that this will deliver a resolution that we can recommend to members particularly given the Council has decided to progress the removal of ECU despite knowing that UNISON had requested this special meeting. This is again another example of the bad faith shown by the Council regarding ECU.

UNISON also wish to clarify that even if staff do voluntarily agree to the changes that they can still be balloted for industrial action and take part in industrial action.

UNISON Advice

It is ultimately up to individuals if they wish to voluntarily sign up to the buyout. However it is UNISON’s position that the best way to retain ECU allowance and resist the attack on your terms and conditions of employment is to reject the buyout and to stick together as a collective. If all staff did not voluntarily sign up it would be far more difficult for the Council to try to dismiss and re-engage staff to force the changes onto you. Every volunteer undermines that position. In addition the buyout is exceptionally poor and is worth far less than the Council claim.

The attack on your terms and conditions is not inevitable and there are other means by which the Council can make savings. The Council have consulted in bad faith on this matter and have shown no willingness to explore alternatives to removing ECU allowance. Do not let them con you out of your ECU allowance. The Council should remember that it is only the hard work of staff that is keeping services going despite years of cuts.

For further advice please contact the Branch Office. Please also ensure that we have accurate details for you including your home address, email address, telephone number, workplace and job description. You can update your details by contacting the branch office or accessing my UNISON.

 

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Further Advice to UNISON members on Essential Car User (ECU)

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Dear Member

We have reached a critical time in the ongoing dispute between UNISON and Blackpool Council in relation to the proposed removal of Essential Car User allowance. The Council has declared that consultation has been exhausted and has issued letters seeking to encourage staff to vary terms and conditions of employment by means of a buy-out. Compared to the allowance paid each year, the offer is paltry - a one-off payment of £625 (£500 net).
(An attachment to this email outlines the issues in more detail, but below are the crucial issues.)

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COUNCIL LETTERS - ESSENTIAL CAR USER

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Dear Member,

As you are aware, the Council has issued letters to consult you individually to vary your terms and conditions of employment. You should also know that UNISON has advised members not to sign any variation.

Our recent indicative ballot showed a vote of 92% in favour of taking some form of industrial action to retain it. Signing the variation will undermine any attempt to retain the Essentia Car User allowance because those who sign up cannot take part in the formal ballot for industrial action.

As trade union members, our only strength is in acting together as one collective unit. Accepting the employer's offer will divide us.

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